Poetic licence;Primary;Reviews;General;Books

15th January 1999 at 00:00
THE POETRY BOOK FOR PRIMARY SCHOOLS. Edited by Anthony Wilson with Sian Hughes. The Poetry Society pound;7.95.

TEACHING POETRY IN THE PRIMARY SCHOOL. By Dennis Carter. David Fulton pound;14.

A passion for poetry and a powerfully expressed belief in its importance in primary children's education pervade both these books. But the two texts are very different. The Poetry Book for Primary Schools is an inspirational compilation of poems, articles and practical ideas from a wide range of contemporary poets, and each article or poem tends to fizz off the page with the personality and experiences of the poet.

Meanwhile Dennis Carter writes very much in the shadow (he perceives it as a shadow) of the National Literacy Strategy framework for teaching and the Literacy Hour, and aims to show how teachers can satisfy their requirements while remaining true to what is important about poetry and about children.

His discussions of the importance of poetry for young children's education are deeper than Anthony Wilson's introductory afflatus. But I wish he knew the iambic pentameter has 10 syllables with five stresses or beats. English poetry is stress-timed - not syllabic.

The Poetry Society book contains a wide array of valuable material from respected names - John Mole, Wendy Cope, Fred Sedgwick, Roger McGough, Kit Wright, the late Ted Hughes, Jill Pirrie, James Berry - and that is just from the first of the three pages of contents.

Each contributor takes a personal angle. Fred Sedgwick discusses learning poems "by heart" rather than "by rote". Valerie Bloom talks about the liberation, for a child of Caribbean background, of being allowed to write in Creole.

Dennis Carter's book, perhaps, has more immediate value because it addresses directly and in detail the daily problem primary teachers face in using the Literacy Hour for emotionally and imaginatively educational purposes.

The books share philosophies, approaches and even some of the poems used for classroom work - Miroslav Holub's "The Door", and e e cummings's "The Balloonman", for instance. Carter's book could well help teachers to exploit the inspiration provided by the Poetry Society book while ful-filling the requirements of the Framework for Teaching.

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