English - Poetry from the Dales

24th February 2012 at 00:00

What's it all about?

When Josie Whitehead retired from teaching Pitman shorthand five years ago, she turned to something that had become a growing passion: phonics learning and the power it has to help improve children's language skills.

She decided to volunteer at her local primary school near Bradford, spending an hour a week helping weaker pupils with their reading. What she hadn't anticipated was that this would prove so successful that it would lead to her writing poems that now inspire children around the world.

"Like me, these children had a preference for classic narrative poems made up of rhyme," she says. "So as a challenge I began to write short poems I hoped would inspire, excite and help their literacy skills.

"That led to setting up a poetry website so I could share the work with others. Now I have a collection of nearly 900 poems which encourage learners to identify patterns of poetry and also to really look at the world around them."

Having an impact

Feedback from teachers and educational psychologists suggests that her poems' rhyming structure is particularly useful for phonological development.

Ms Whitehead's poems not only support literacy skills, but cover a range of subjects, making them useful for various creative topics. The website includes a section on health and well-being, alongside science-focused poems. They are mainly aimed at primary, but there are higher-level texts too.

Ms Whitehead frequently engages in Skype readings and question-and-answer sessions with classes, in the UK and abroad.

Planning for World Poetry Day on 21 March? Why not contact Ms Whitehead for a Skype reading?


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