Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Encouraging Kids to Read and Write Poetry - Guest Post

I'm delighted to welcome Lorraine Marwood to The Book Chook today. I recently reviewed Lorraine's book, A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems, and was thrilled to see that she has just won the Prime Minister's Literary Awards for children's fiction with her verse novel, Star Jumps. WOW!

If you think you'll find it as fascinating as I did to listen to Lorraine discussing the background to her book, you can catch an interview with her on Bush Telegraph. Scroll down to Thursday 18 November where you can listen to Lorraine’s interview under "Star Jumps".

Today Lorraine shares some tips about getting kids involved in reading and writing poetry.

Encouraging Kids to Read and Write Poetry

One of the most frequent questions I'm asked when I workshop with children is:

Does it have to rhyme? (No, I say, there are other ways of achieving rhythm- there is freedom in poetry that is not restricted to finding the right word to rhyme.)

It's done
it's mine
it's a taste of the world
it's a snippet of the world
it's through my brain's eyes
it's my exploring language
I've condensed down a moment
to treasure
to re-live
to read aloud.

© Lorraine Marwood

I just had to quickly write down a small poem to show what poetry does!

What is poetry? Is it the nursery rhymes we sing to our children? Is it Shakespeare and all that high brow stuff?

Or is it in the very fabric of our everyday, if we could only see it, enjoy it,

I have workshopped poetry with children and adults for many years now and I'm constantly amazed at the immediate enjoyment and understanding of how poetry works, once we've allowed the class to take risks, have a go...

What is poetry? It's a chant, a rhythm, a condensing of a moment in time in all its richness. It's the world written down in 3D sensory expression!

How can you as a parent help your child to a lifelong enjoyment of poetry?
  • Read nursery rhyme collections- there are many new versions around.
  • Read aloud as many poems as you can- anthologies are great to share a variety of poets.
  • Read collections like:
100 Australian Poems for Children ed Clare Scott- Mitchell and Kathlyn Griffith, Random House
Celebrate: The End of Year Reciter Triple D books
Australian poets like Sherryl Clark - Sixth Grade Style Queen (not) Penguin
Steven Herrick
My own collection: A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems by Lorraine Marwood


A Kick In the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, Paul B Janeczko (in picture book format with examples of forms like cinquain, sonnet.)

At I have a two word strategy to download under the resources section.

The Poem a Week Project: an online resource of many contemporary Australian children's poets.

Starting out

1.Have fun with words- look at the endless possibilities- like onomatopoeia - the sound of words - like umbrella.
2.Collect little daily observations like:

  • a wattle bird's neck glistening with nectar as it feeds from flowers
  • or a cat rippling quickly through grass
  • or the diamond shine of sun on a leaf after rain
  • or the sound of the fridge humming, the conversation of a brother or sister

Keep them in a journal/diary/home made book.

Poems can be visual- like concrete poems or shape poems.
This site is for online writing and shape drawing for concrete poetry!

Lately I've been writing poems with my 7 year old grandson- it's a kind of team effort- he does the drawing, I respond with a simple poem:

The title of the drawing is Jack Frost but I ended up with a poem about puddles- that's the beauty of writing- there is no right or wrong answer- you are in control.


looking into rain
collected in a cup of soil
the worms make cloud tracks
the sun comes to sail its face
in wrinkles of gold
and my gumboots are like strides
of thunder stirring the sky
into muddy tea, only the earth
wants to drink.

© Lorraine Marwood

Now this poem didn't just present itself- I wrote another version about Jack Frost himself. This lead to puddles and what one can see in a puddle, and so this poem evolved.

Above all enjoy the experimentation and fun that comes from poetry. It is concrete images, sensory detail and so vibrant!

Lorraine Marwood is a poet and author- she loves taking writing/poetry workshops for all ages.


  1. I love reading to my children but it never occured to me to write with them (despite the fact that I'm a writer). Imagine my surprise one day when I found a poem in a notebook tucked under my 7-yr-old daughter's pillow! It was breathtaking. I submitted it to a statewide contest and it won first place. I can't believe I never thought to sit and write with her. Children have such incredibly creative minds, so how wise to start them exercising that creativity at a young age. Great post.

  2. The Book Chook08 December, 2010

    What a delightful surprise that must have been, Wanderlust! I think you're right, giving our children opportunities for all sorts of creative expression pays dividends. And letting our kids see us read and write shows them we value those pursuits.

    Lovely to hear from you!

  3. Caroline Starr Rose09 December, 2010

    As a former teacher and a verse novelist, this made my heart sing!

  4. The Book Chook09 December, 2010

    Caroline, you've just taught me even a blog comment can be poetry!

  5. Jignesh bapna14 December, 2010

    nice post.
    this will surely help my child..

  6. The Book Chook15 December, 2010

    That's good to know, Jignesh bapna!


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