Joseph Coelho: Why Children Love Rhythm and Rhyme
Poet and children's author, Joseph Coelho, shares his thoughts on why poetry is so appealing to young children.
My name’s Joseph Coelho - I’m a poet and children’s author. I think rhythm and rhyme is so appealing to children because it’s the musicality of language. Babies start making sounds very early on they will repeat what an adult says to them. And we will go up to them and go ‘goo, goo, gaa, gaa’ that’s alliteration! That’s playing with words, it’s playing with the rhythm of language.
I think so many of us have been scared by poetry because we see it as this ‘thing’, this big scary thing that we were made to learn at school. When actually it’s about having fun with how words sound. I often work with young children and introduce them to the term onomatopoeia – words that are sounds like ‘boom’ ‘bang’ ‘crash’. You can turn that into a poem: ‘Boom, boom, bang crash. Crash, crash, boom, bang’. And you can start to have fun with the words. These are very simple ways that you can build up a poem of sounds and get the children repeating words and phrases back to you. And you are introducing them to poetry and therefore literature – and who knows where that will lead.
When sharing a story with young people, don’t be scared to search for the musicality in the text and the story. Look for those words that are repeated; look for those hidden structures. Are there phrases that come up again and again? Make use of those bits of the story. Repeat them, return to sections that the kids enjoy, that make the kids laugh, that make the kids gasp.
If you’re really interested in a subject, the kids will pick up on that. And if you’re showing them a book about something that gets you hugely excited, they will get hugely excited. If you can transmit that passion, you’ll get the kids hooked and get them interested in the books that you’re putting in front of them.