Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Benefit of Reading Poetry to 4 Year Olds

     Elliot is a boy of many talents and pursuits.  His favorite pop culture toys are Lego Star Wars.  He loves video games, and many other things that boys love to do.  I have watched him build complex Lego creations since he was in preschool.  He loves to work with his hands, building and creating from his imagination.  He loves to climb trees, build forts, ride bikes, skate board, and wrestle with his best pal, Ozzie the dog.
     And I don't know if this will create a conflict for him later in life, but he has developed an appreciation for poetry.
     I have been reading to him at bed time since before he was born.  I gave him pieces of my childhood by reading all the books I loved.  And somehow, one book that I barely touched as a child, survived  15 moves and 24 years of sitting on shelves or hidden in boxes.  It is a treasure from my archives; the gem Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne.  My mother never read it to me.  I was a very independent reader, but this book of poems, like most good poetry, needs to be read aloud to be fully appreciated.
     The benefit of reading poems to a four year old is that when you read them again to the same child at six, he will recite the lines aloud while building Legos, as if he is singing a familiar song.
    Last night while he built Legos and I sewed Dragon Paws, I heard the lines of Twice Times being recited from the voice of my child.
   At bed time, he asked me to read more from that fragile book whose pages are yellow and torn, but still full of the magic of a boy growing up.  The beauty of Milne's poems is that there are humorous bits, but no trace of edgy sarcasm present today.  Simple beautiful themes of imaginary friends, playing outside, going to bed in the dark, alone...conveyed as a pleasant experience.
    So if you are four, or six, or 39, or 99...and want to remember the beauty of a simple day pretending, remember to read Milne aloud.

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