The Power of Poetry, p.2
The fun factor in poetry stems from its closeness to song. "Poetry is a natural extension of the lullabies that babies hear in the crib," says Shelley Harwayne, Ph.D., founding principal of the Manhattan New School in New York City. "Just as parents will memorize a radio jingle, kids will learn a favorite poem by heart when their parents read it aloud to them again and again." Soon, she says, children will pretend to read the poem by themselves, but eventually they'll begin to recognize the words on the page.
Though Dr. McClure advises parents to start their babies and toddlers with short, simple rhymes, as children get older it's perfectly fine -- and even recommended -- to read more complex poems to them (she likes Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Swing"). In fact, a new poetry collection to be published this October, titled The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, includes selections from Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and others that she read to her children when they were young. Though little ones won't yet have the skills to read these more sophisticated verses themselves, they'll still enjoy the flow of the sounds, which will make it easier to learn new words. Educators call this approach "scaffolding": building a support system for children as they learn. "Parents and teachers keep raising the bar, exposing a child to increasingly complex language and ideas, but the adults are always there to support the child if he gets stuck," Dr. McClure explains.