Saturday, 25 October 2008

Poetry being 'frozen out' by schools

The TES reports that the teaching of poetry is being undermined by the free market. Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, has warned that the decline in the children’s poetry market could no longer be ignored and said only one major publisher, Macmillan, now publishes new poetry for children.
As fewer primary teachers appreciate verse, the diversity of the form is not being taught, so demand for new books has dwindled, he said.

“I would argue over whether the market knows best in this instance,” he said. “There are ways booksellers could discover and promote poetry more proactively. The best advocates are poets themselves. While reading is seen as an individual activity, poetry is a social activity. There also needs to be a demystification of poetry. There is an assumption that poetry is difficult, not just among booksellers but among teachers.”

He called for more support for teachers in gaining children’s interest in poetry, and for poets’ status to be raised through a high-profile Man Booker-type prizes. People probably know and love poetry already - through lyrics, rhymes or the text of children’s picture books,” he said. “Adults see it as a niche thing and project that on to children, but children don’t have those hang- ups. If children are not turned on to poetry, they will lose the opportunity to engage with literacy in a way that enriches them, and in the long term there is a danger for the entire poetry infrastructure because we are not growing a new generation who like poetry and who want to read and write poems.

“Poetry has sat at the heart of British experience for thousands of years. It would be very sad if it shifted from that position.”

An Ofsted report on poetry in schools last year found that poetry was the worst taught part of the English curriculum.

Michael Rosen, the famous poet, said, "Poetry is being frozen in the ice of the national literacy strategy. What is needed is needed is a specific poetry curriculum."

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