It is never too early to start reading poetry with your children. Poetry is actually one of the best types of texts for parents and young children to enjoy together. Nursery rhymes and rhyming books such as Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, and Shel Silverstein are wonderful examples of poetry that children will love and want to hear again and again.
Young children often appear to almost be born with a love of poetry. They will naturally move to the rhythm of poetry from the earliest age (think about how much one and two-year-olds love “Ring Around the Rosie” or “This Little Piggy Went to Market”) and will want to hear the same poems over and over. By the age of two or three, children begin to delight in rhyme and quickly start to repeat and remember the rhyming words at the end of sentences. They will enjoy the familiar rhyming words in Dr. Seuss and delight in the rhythm and rhyme of Mother Goose, even though the language in those rhymes is unusual, and rarely used in conversation.
They will also enjoy making up all sorts of rhyming games. By about the age of four, most children enjoy many types of word play – especially anything that strikes them as funny. This word play can include riddles and knock-knock jokes, playing games where the child thinks of words that contain the same beginning sound, or thinking of words that fit into particular categories (for example, animals that fly, animals that swim, etc.).
Human beings appear to be born with an ear for rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. This means children’s ears are attuned to hearing phonemes, or the distinct units of sound that make up words. Being able to hear phonemes leads to phonics, the ability to link phonemes to particular letters or letter combinations, which, of course, leads to reading. So young children’s love of poetry is key to supporting language development, and has a direct connection to their learning to read and write.
Try to reading poetry or rhyming stories regularly with your children, and watch them giggle, hear their vocabularies grow, and see their imaginations soar!