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The Importance of Introducing Poetry to Young People

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My path into poetry was strange really, I started out as a teacher and then I became known for my music. I was part of a group called The Scaffold and sang songs like Lily the Pink. I had a great time and it was then that I started writing poetry. I didn't think poetry would be a career for me, I thought it was something that I would just do - it was my little secret. I didn't start writing poems until I was about 18. I just enjoyed doing it and then started writing more and more and began getting published. I was able to stay with it and for that I have been lucky.

The first poem I remember was one my mother use to recite to me about a goblin in a garden bouncing a big rubber ball- I recall her words so vividly.

The first poem I actually recited was Lewis Carroll's The Jabberwocky and I loved the work of Edward Lear, and later on Robert Louis Stevenson. Poetry was always around me and what I particularly enjoyed was when I used to recite poems in class out loud. The enjoyment came from listening to poems rather than studying them.

Now, years later, I am the president of the Poetry Society, which is really at the heart of the poetry scene in the UK and has been for some time. It produces Poetry Review and the quarterly newspaper Poetry News, runs a wide programme of events, competitions and educational initiatives, and generally looks after poets' needs similar to a poetry union

At the Poetry Society we also recognise the importance of children's poetry and the benefits of finding ways to engage younger generations to ensure that the wonders of poetry travel on and are passed onto the next generations

We were really interested when Disney Junior approached us about the idea of setting iconic Disney animation to poetry in their new series of A Poem Is... We believe anything that helps children love and understand poetry is a great thing.

Disney is all about storytelling - it's a way of seeing and escaping the world, a sense of adventure. The same can be said of poetry, too.

Working in partnership with Disney Junior, we have produced a useful guide for any parent or relative to help get young children started into the world of poetry that perfectly accompanies the A Poem Is... series. The series is narrated by British talent such as Matt Smith, David Walliams and Richard Briers, CBE, and set to iconic Disney animation.

The guide offers hints and tips to help read poetry in a fun and engaging way, from the sounds of poetry, to the sights and to the movement - there are even games which can help bring the poems to life for families.

Recent research conducted by Disney Junior to mark the launch of the poetry guide revealed that four out of five parents agree that poems can stimulate imagination, expand their children's vocabulary and help creative thinking and at the Poetry Society, we agree.

Poetry is a really important part of childhood, but nowadays we lead such busy lives we sometimes aren't aware of the benefits of poetry for children. Poetry can be magical and help with reading and developing a child's imagination. In fact, poetry and literature fuel the imagination no matter what age.

I think poetry is important for its use of language, it's about introducing new words, and sometimes you don't have to understand every word of the poem you just get a feeling for it and that's important - you get a sense of storytelling. Poetry can bring you to situations that are happy and fun, and also sometimes sad, and I think that is important too.

Poetry introduces young children to different themes and feelings. What is also wonderful about poetry for children is that there is this great expectancy of rhythm and rhyme, they enjoy that and it's a good learning tool. It's also a good way of encouraging children to read.

At the Poetry Society we recognise that children's literacy is paramount, and as a former teacher I've seen firsthand the power of great storytelling has in inspiring kids. A child's imagination is developing all the time, and that's what makes poetry and a series like Disney Junior's A Poem is... so enchanting because young viewers can enjoy poetry set to iconic scenes from Disney films.

Childhood is where it starts - if you get a child at an early age and they enjoy poetry, it will hopefully stay with them. It may leave them during their teenage years but hopefully they will come back to it, it's always there.

We don't want people to be frightened of poetry, we don't want people to think it's not for them, or that it's for posh people or difficult - it isn't! Poems can be simple and they can be complex but as long as children are given it as an everyday part of their lives, like singing and dancing, rather than it being seen as something special, they will like it. Poetry can be emotive and moving and the poetry featured in A Poem is... is set to classic Disney animation, which is warming and reassuring for young children.

Catch A Poem Is... everyday from 2 - 14 July at 5.25pm on Disney Junior. Families can download the guide at DisneyJunior.co.uk and find out more about the Poetry Society at www.poetrysociety.org.uk

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