Favorite First Poems

Introduction

The Academy of American Poets designated April National Poetry Month in 1996 as a time to celebrate poetry's many contributions to American culture. Throughout the month, schools, libraries, and literary organizations participate in readings, festivals, workshops, and other events to encourage a deeper appreciation for the art form, especially among children.

In addition to providing entertainment value for children of all ages, poetry plays a vital role in the development of literacy skills. "Kids delight in repetition, rhythm, alliteration, and rhyme," says Diane McGuiness, Ph.D., the Sanibel, FL-based author of Growing a Reader From Birth: Your Child's Path From Language to Literacy. Children as young as 3 (and sometimes even younger) can easily master a short rhyming poem, Dr. McGuiness says.

It's not just the language benefits that make reading, writing, and listening to poetry so important. Silly or serious, poetry taps into young hearts, captivates the imagination, and can stay with children for a lifetime. Spend some time encouraging your child to read and write poetry this month, using the memories below as inspiration. Then go to www.child.com/web_links and submit your child's poem; we'll post it online to share with other readers.

Top Author Memories

"For my eighth birthday, my grandmother gave me a beautiful illustrated copy of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The first Wonderland poem, which is the first poem of my life, looks, to a contemporary adult eye, like experimental verse. This curiosity, which fascinated me as a child and inspired me to much imitation, has no title and begins with the startling word 'Fury.' The poem replicates a mouse's long tail, dwindling down the page until its final, mordant words are set in miniature type, scarcely readable. But it was the sharply rhymed and accented 'Jabberwocky' that made the most profound impression on me. I was fascinated by the bizarre, secret language and the poem's dreamlike violent action. The entire poem is irremediably imprinted in my memory, who knows why?"

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