Waiting for the Future

24th February 2006 at 00:00
WAITING FOR THE FUTURE: POEMS BY CHILDREN ON POVERTY AND BAD HOUSING. Shelter pound;5 plus 1.75 pp. Order on 020 7505 2036 or www.shelter.org.ukpublications. Proceeds to Shelter and End Child Poverty

One January, as a young teacher in an urban school, I asked children to write what they hoped for in the coming year. I was humbled by their simple and selfless thoughts, to do with family illnesses and new babies and sisters' weddings. One contribution in particular - "I wish that my mum could find a job that she likes" - stays in my mind, and it came back to me when I read, in this anthology, the poem by eight-year-old Alex that begins: "My mum has gone for a job I hope she gets it I really do We need it."

The poems here come from a project by Shelter involving 21 schools from across the country. Eight poets worked with children, encouraging them to write poems about bad housing and poverty. The examples here are by children who are themselves homeless or living in poverty, or are just touched by the plight of their contemporaries.

It's a scandal that, as Shelter reminds us in the introduction, 3.5 million children in this country live in poverty, and more than a million in bad housing. Maybe this wake-up call from our children will reach the people who can make a difference. Eight year old Edmund hopes so: "I wish I was somewhere else, somewhere Where I can live. Please help me, Mr Government, I beg you, I plea."

There are 98 poems, and an introductory one, "Missing", by Andrew Motion:

"Whose lives are these, borne on a wing and a prayer, Thronging the water and earth, the fire and air?"

This book is a reminder of the reality of life for many families, and it will provide plenty of food for thought and discussion in class.

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