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This report is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

Bringing Poetry to Children Chris Holifield

Launched five years ago by the Poetry Book Society, the Children's Poetry Bookshelf for seven- to eleven-year-olds has served its small educational membership well, helping teachers to encourage children to enjoy poetry by sending books out each term, together with tips to help with the task of teaching poetry in the classroom. Whilst maintaining the high quality of choice by its Poet Selectors, the CPB, small and perfectly formed, has however until now had only a limited impact because of its limited size and relatively restricted membership.

The importance of encouraging children to read and enjoy poetry from an early age seems obvious, both for its own sake and because of the pleasure they can derive from it, and also to ensure an ongoing audience for the art. It is not difficult to get children started on poetry, as nursery rhymes and picture books with rhyming text are popular among very small children and encourage them to develop their natural sense of rhythm from an early age. Once they start to move up the school, however, the national curriculum and the pressure of SATs intervenes, even though lively school visits from poets, such as those organised through the Poetry Society, do highlight just how much fun poetry can be for many children. There are many ways, including the successful Writing Together scheme, in which children have been encouraged to write poetry, but there has generally been less emphasis on the equally important and perhaps for many children ...

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