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I got very bored with poetry at school but I love poetry now and I want to ensure that my children feel the same. When should I start reading poetry to them? And what books should I read to them?

There really isn’t a special time to start reading poetry to children and there are poetry books for every stage of childhood. I suspect that you have probably shared poetry with your children since they were born. ‘Hushaby baby in the treetop’ or ‘Bye Baby Bunting’ or other lullabies usually come to mind when rocking a newborn and we hum them almost automatically. The patterns of sound and lilting rhythms of lullabies are probably the first ‘poems’ most children hear soon followed by nursery rhymes, clapping games and songs. Professor of Children’s Poetry, Morag Styles, suggests that ‘Children’s responses to poetry are innate, instinctive, natural – maybe it starts in the womb, with the mother’s heartbeat?’  So my first answer to your question is – start reading poetry to your children as soon as want. However, your children may be beyond their early infancy and ready for something more meaningful, so before schooling starts you could try:

  • Hey Little Bug by James Carter, (Frances Lincoln)
  • The Puffin Books of Fantastic First Poem, edited by June Crebbin (Puffin)
  • Pip by Tony Mitton (Scholastic)
  • Fruits by Valerie Bloom (Macmillan)
  • Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy by Michael Rosen (Bloomsbury)

They will also enjoy the many beautiful rhyming picture books (e.g. Down the Back of the Chair by Margaret Mahy, Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb and Monkey Do by Allan Ahlberg). Once they start school they will still enjoy returning to their favourites because poetry is not related to being a certain age. So keep reading poetry to your children even when they can read it for themselves.