Believe it or not, all children do love poetry. If they say they don’t, it’s only because they still don’t know they do. When I was a child, all of a sudden I found out I loved poetry. Not only did it help me learn to read and write, it helped me understand the world around me. Children are drawn to stories and poetry as it lights up their imagination, and life lessons are more interesting and easily remembered when they are taught passively through good literature and verse. In three short stories we discover poems written by a child. Claire is a seven year old girl, she has a dog and lives by the sea. Through her stories about her daily life we discover the true power of poetry, poems and stories that make her happy and give her the confidence to take on a scary world.
The Mouse in the House
The school bell rings out abruptly making the young girl jump and run to her parents, she doesn’t want to go but she has to, the first class in a new school is about to begin. Claire is seven years old, she has short mousy brown hair, and big brown eyes with beautiful long eyelashes. She timidly walks through the school corridor, the other children are much bigger and she wonders if they notice her. She jumps out of the way of a big group of pupils who are shouting down the corridor, another group of older children are running from the other direction and Claire backs into a corner. Across the corridor she notices a door, perhaps a place to escape from the noise and chaos. There is a small break in the corridor traffic and Claire pounces to the door, feeling her heart beating quickly she turns the door handle and enters the room.
The room is quiet, peaceful and dark. The walls are filled with bookcases and Claire suddenly feels the relief of finding the library. Her safe place, where she can read and escape the dangerous world she lives in. Maybe she can stay here all day, she asks herself if anyone will notice that she has gone. Between two bookcases she finds a spot where nobody will see her, she perches on the floor and looks at the books to her left. In the bottom corner of the bookcase she sees an old book with a picture of a mouse on its seam. She carefully pulls the book out and reads the title ‘The Power of Poetry’. She opens the book and a page falls out, a poem about a mouse in a house, she begins to read.
‘There was a little mouse
Who lived in my house
He lived in the attic
And he was very acrobatic
He leapt on the chairs
He ran down the stairs
He nibbled through my scarf
It really made me laugh
My dad was not happy
The mouse had to go
The trap went snap
But the trap was too slow’
Claire reads the poem once, twice and then a third time. The mouse is small and vulnerable in the large house, it leaps on the chairs and runs down the stairs, but it is brave and confident, even when the situation seems dangerous. ‘Can I be brave like the mouse?’ asks Claire. ‘I am small, intelligent, acrobatic and fast just like the mouse.’ She leaps to her feet, packs the poetry book in her backpack, and heads to her first class.
Claire finds stories and poems fun to read, and they also help her come up with ideas and solve problems. For children school can be a daunting experience, just like in the story The Mad Teacher, the pupils learn to adapt to a strange environment. The mad teacher gets them to repeat words, and do all sorts of strange learning activities which causes a lot of confusion among the pupils. Through these stories, children can find common ground with the characters, they can see how the characters adapt to different situations, and apply what they learn in their own school life.
ACTIVITY – Choose an animal and write a short poem about what makes that animal special. For an extra challenge try and make the words rhyme!
The Fish Tank
The fish tank is a small circular bowl made of glass. Inside three colourful fish swim from side to side, they seem bored, what are they supposed to do in a fish bowl all day? Claire can’t help wonder if the fish are actually the lucky ones. She is a typical school pupil with so many things to do. Her English homework is lying across her bedroom floor, but she is distracted looking at the peculiar creatures floating around in her fish bowl. They have no chores, no responsibilities and no parents or teachers telling them what to do. The fish have to stay in the bowl, just as Claire has to stay in her room and do her homework. They have no choice, they have to do it.
Claire takes the bowl and walks downstairs, her parents ask her why she is holding the fish bowl, and she tells them she wants to let the swim free in the garden pond. Claire has a big garden, full of colourful plants and flowers. At the end of the garden there is a large pond. The pond is full of life with water lilies, tadpoles and beautiful fish that swim about freely in nature. Claire walks to the edge of the pond where the water is shallow, she is wearing her red wellington boots and bravely takes a few steps into the pond water. She slowly places the bowl of fish into the water and they swim away, they are now free.
Claire takes a stick and writes a poem into a patch of mud on the edge of the pond.
Tide comes in
Tide goes out
When it’s in
You can swim
When it’s out
You can play and shout
They don’t like to hear me shout
Here they come
Here they go
The way they swim
Makes me look slow
I like them all
The best are trout’
Claire spends several minutes watching the fish swim about, exploring their new environment and making friends with the other creatures in the pond. She goes back into the house through the front door. ‘How are the fish’ her mother asks. ‘They are now happy, free and with their family’ says Claire. Just like the fish she is happy to be with her family at home. She goes up to her room and does her homework.
When we are children the world seems so big, but it is still important for children to go on adventures, break the routine and build up confidence. In the story Miss Grace Green and the Clown Brothers, the clown fish are afraid of the bigger fish in the sea, but they learn by sticking together there is no need to be scared of the ocean. Claire feels the support of her family and this gives her the confidence to do what she feels is right, and let the fish live happily in the pond.
ACTIVITY: Make a list of 10 animals you find in the zoo or aquarium, talk to your partner and describe the natural habitat of the animals on your list. What is the environment like? What do they eat? how do they survive?
The Dog’s Curiosity
Claire is playing fetch on the beach with her dog Lassie. Lassie has brown eyes and long golden fur. It’s a warm summer day and they have the beach to themselves. Claire throws a stick as far as she can and Lassie joyfully collects it and brings it back to Claire. Lassie is a very curious dog, she is always looking, scanning the beach with her ears pricked, listening to every noise. Suddenly there is a crack of thunder, Lassie begins barking, telling Claire to take shelter in the beach hut as the rain starts pouring down.
There is more thunder and it rains very heavily. Lassie’s eyes scan the sea, there is something out there. She runs to the shore, alerting Claire to a small red boat. There is a boy in the boat, and he is trying to paddle to shore where he will be safe. The rain is coming down fast and it is difficult to see, the boat is going in the wrong direction as the boy paddles further into the dangerous ocean. Then he hears something through the noise of the waves and the sound of the rain. He can hear a dog barking from behind him. He turns the boat and paddles in the other direction. The rain begins to slow and as he gets closer to the beach. He then sees Lassie the dog, wagging her tail and guiding him to safety.
Claire is happy to see the boy safe, she takes out her poetry book and writes a new poem.
Curiously the dogs eyes never moved
He saw me
But his eyes never left the stormy sea
His eyes scanned the rocks and waves
He scanned the shoreline and the caves
Out at sea the boy held fast
As the rolling waves went past
The raging sea had taken its toll
And smashed the dingy’s mast
Suddenly the dog pricked his listening ears
The storm had started to disappear
There in the distance he could see
A small red boat in the deep blue sea
The boy climbed ashore from the sea
To be greeted by his friend Lassie
For Claire the seaside is a place for fun and play, but she soon learns that the sea can also be extremely dangerous. Through stories and poems she can comprehend the dangers of the world and learn important lessons. The story Mowgli learns to swim also teaches the importance for children to stand up to their fears with the support of friends and family. With the help of his friend Baloo, Mowgli learns how to swim across the river and escape the dangers of the jungle. It is much easier to be brave when we have a friend beside us, just like Claire and Lassie, and Mowgli and Baloo.
TO GO FURTHER
Poetry is very powerful and it can help us understand the world we live in. Create a large poster with a class poem. Each and every pupil can contribute their own line to the poem. Write about something that is important to your class.