An inspiring article The Word Fairy: The Magic of Reading and Writing for Young Children by Veronika Shulman from Get Lit – Words Ignite describes their work in helping children and teens to connect with classic poetry and write their own original piece. They believe that if a student could “claim their poem” they could “claim their life”. Why the need?
The correlation between literacy rates and incarceration is truly sobering. Low income communities tend to have poor graduation rates due to lack of resources and disadvantaged, struggling homes. Oftentimes this results in low literacy rates. For example, California, rated 49th in the USA, is in serious crisis; their literacy rates are on par with some third world countries. Sobering to note, this problem not only national, but global.
Reading can be empowering and the opposite is true too. If a child does not learn to read, learning becomes frustrating, and young ones become bored and disillusioned, turning to the streets for escape and stimulation. There is a way to break the cycle, however: show children the beauty and value of language. Put the pain on paper; give it a voice and take away its power. As Shulman states, “Reading is truly a game-changer, as it can engage students in their own educations and change the trajectories of their lives completely.”
The article highlights the power of poetry to foster self-expression and to promote a love of an appreciation for language. Shulman comments, “In reading and responding to great works of literature, people start to love, like, and value words instead of dreading them. Even more important, they realize that they have voices and that their voices matter. It’s never too early to learn that lesson.”
Start early. When you read aloud with your child, ask them what they liked about the story or poem. Which character they related to… How the story made them feel… That can be the beginning of positive self-expression and learning to connect deeply with books and words. Once they begin to enjoy words and the nuances of language, they can begin to enjoy their minds.