February is considered to be the month of love, so it is only fitting that it is also national poetry month. Over the past 20 years, we have found that poetry is an amazing tool to teach our preschoolers and kindergarteners about rhythm, rhyme and different cultures. For example, the following poem is from the late Shel Silverstein’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974):
Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you’re a bird, be an early bird—
But if you’re a worm, sleep late.
When we discuss this poem in class, we highlight that the words “plate” and “late” have the same ending sound and therefore rhyme. Then, we talk about other words that end in “-ate” such as “mate” and “state”. “Early Bird” is a great poem to also demonstrate that every line of a poem does not have to always rhyme. In this instance, every other line rhymes. The next point is to highlight the meter or rhythm of this poem. It may be difficult to explain the importance of meter but by reading the poem aloud and changing the tone of your voice, you and your children can create different meters together.
Poetry is also a great tool to introduce children to different cultures. The most accessible way to introduce children to international poetry is through global nursery rhymes. The following nursery rhyme is translated from Russian (Wright):
Hush You Mice
Hush you mice! A cat is near us,
He can see us, he can hear us...
--What if he is on a diet?--
Even then you should be quiet!
This nursery rhyme is similar to the poem above. First, we would discuss the rhyming pattern and determine together that “diet” and “quiet” rhyme. Next, we would draw parallels between “Early Bird” and “Hush You Mice”. Both poems discuss the relationship between predator and prey and describe a way that the prey can avoid being eaten. This parallel could be used as a bridge to connect similar ideas from two very different countries, and we can talk about each culture. Poetry is an important part of any culture and can be just one bridge between nations.
Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends the Poems & Drawings of Shel Silverstein. New York: Harper and Row, 1974. Print.
Wright, Dani. "Russia." It's a Small World. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014.