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Can Poetry Matter?

I'm borrowing the title of Dana Gioia's book of essays to ponder something. The shelves at public libraries and school libraries are overflowing with books of poetry, and I can't help wondering how many of those get read and how often.

Please don't get me wrong. I am pro-poetry. (How could a lit blogger be anything else!) But when I see the enormous supply of it at the library, I am curious. And, for that matter, why do some children (okay, mine) occasionally declare, "No poetry! No!" when you try to read them some? Is it force-fed at school? I have no idea. The Washington Post even starts a review of a new anthology with the line, "Who says kids don't like po'try?" Well, nobody, but I do sense a disconnect somewhere.

At any rate, both the Post and NPR are recommending Poetry Speaks to Children, a collection of 100 poems that comes with a CD of many poets reading their own work. NPR says,

The book is designed to be read by children 6 years and older. But Elise Paschen, a poet herself and the book's editor, says it appeals to kids as young as 2. "And not only that, it really appeals to adults. I think that you can read these poems on all levels."


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Recently heard Jack Prelutsky speak and I am even more convinced that poetry is important for kids. He hated poetry as a child...he started writing poetry as an adult. Rhyming, especially, is important for learning the English language--kids that can't rhyme have a harder time learning to read. And who doesn't love Mother Goose? (Nursery rhymes are poetry too!)

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