The visit of an author in school is always an inspiration. Kathy Henderson worked with our children at Heathcote last Tuesday. Author, poet, printmaker and illustrator Kathy has written many books for children of all ages including Lugalbanda, In the Middle of the Night, The Year in the City, Fearless Fitzroy and The Little Boat, which won the Kurt Maschler Award and was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize.
Such visits are vital in my view – to open children’s minds and help them understand how writing happens professionally but also to give them the chance to experiment freely with language in their own personal way; something which happens less often than I would like in school.
Poetry is so powerful and yet the process of putting words on the page in a poetic way can sometimes be rather daunting for children. Where to start? This is so often the question that arises.
A good starting point is to read others’ poetry and even from those very first books it is essential that poetry plays its part in children’s reading material. Poetry promotes literacy, encourages self- awareness and fosters emotional resilience. It can cross boundaries that little else can but most importantly it allows for self-expression. In times of difficulty poetry can offer comfort or a means of expressing a wish. There are many times in our lives when we can’t say aloud what we are feeling. Maybe because we daren’t or shouldn’t or simply can’t find the words to express something coherently to someone else. Poetry lets you do that. It can be private, public, nonsensical, profound, ungrammatically corrected, rigorously ordered, badly punctuated or teeming with end stopped lines, succinct, wordy, metaphorically impossible, rhyming or free verse. It can be anything you want it to be. It can be simply… be.
“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.” Dylan Thomas