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Amanda Gorman, Youth Poet Laureate PHOTO: @GINATHOMPSON8888

Why Poetry Matters

Post by Kyley Pulphus, 2 April 2021

On January 20th at the presidential inauguration, Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman set the world ablaze with her poem “The Hill We Climb.” People were amazed that a poem with such depth and power had been penned by someone who was only twenty-three. Though very young, Amanda had been perfecting her craft for years, having started writing, according to her website,  “at only a few years of age.”

It is amazing what young people can do when given the space and support to shine.

Amanda showed us the power of poetry, how stringing words together in compelling ways can make a long and lasting impact on the world. She also proved that poetry can (and should) be read and written by the very young. This includes our littlest learners in preschool.

Poetry is an effective means to strengthen literacy skills. Alliterative poetry helps emphasize beginning sounds. Rhyming supports the discrimination of sounds, and understanding word families. Poetry stresses rhythm, repetition, and patterns. Through poetry, little learners have fun playing with words.

There are a number of resources and activities to support the reading and writing of poetry with young children. Traditional nursery rhymes are a constant presence in homes and preschool classrooms. Grownups can refresh the old tales by having little poets substitute different words. Instead of an old lady in a shoe, maybe there was a little goldfish in a hat!  There are many other contemporary resources, including great rhyming books like I Like MyselfWhoever You Are.

With support, little poets can also utilize simple poetry structures to create sweet poems. A list poem can be written by making an inventory of special people, places, and things that can be grouped together. For instance a list of “Things That Make Me Happy” or “In My House” can be quite poetic. They can also celebrate themselves by coming up with traits that describe them using every letter of their name in an acrostic poem.

April is National Poetry Month, and the perfect time to support the next Amanda Gorman.

About the Contributor: Kyley Pulphus is the program director of 826 New Orleans, a youth writing nonprofit that supports young people, ages 6-18, in becoming published authors. She will begin her doctoral studies in Literacy Education in fall 2021.