Why Poetry?

Last week, we brought a new poetry appreciation lesson plan to four classrooms in two schools in Irving and Duncanville. This is a big step for our organization, but one might reasonably ask: why does it matter? If the children are sitting around reading a poem, they're not doing any number of other educational work. So why is it worth their time?

Of course, I could just appeal to the TEKS specifications and say: look, educators have already thought about this and decided that children need to learn to appreciate poetry beginning from a very young age.

Texas Essential Knowledge Standards for Kindergarten

Texas Essential Knowledge Standards for Kindergarten

But thinking together about poetry does much more for students than just checking a box on their educational standards. Reading written verse concentrates people's attention in a way that nothing else does. It calls for patient reflection. It calls for a kind of discipline, an exercise of imagination and of memory. It calls for a deep dive into the structure of language. When people gather to read and understand a poem together, they must listen thoughtfully to each other, weighing difficulties and finding productive ways to disagree. It's a challenging but joyful exercise in critical interpretation, sensitivity, and communication.

In other words, reading poetry together trains children in the very habits they need for any kind of disciplined study. If that matters, poetry matters.