Read My Mind: Young Children, Poetry, and Learning

Read My Mind: Young Children, Poetry, and Learning

Read My Mind: Young Children, Poetry, and Learning

Read My Mind: Young Children, Poetry, and Learning


Fred Sedgwick argues that through poetry, children can learn about the whole curriculum, including history and science. The book discusses poetry in terms of children's learning and the imagination. Case studies are used to show how children learn about themselves -- first, their bodies, and second, their thoughts and emotions -- through the writing of poetry. It then considers how children learn about their environment and the relationship between themselves and their environment. Finally, he discusses his techniques for getting children to write and provides recommendations for further reading.


The aim of this book is to help those of us who are interested in children and their learning through poem-writing to reflect on, and thereby improve, our practice.

I’m thinking as I write of parents, student-teachers, teacher-trainers, nursery nurses, and classroom helpers, both paid and unpaid. But if I own up, and say my main audience consists of teachers, I do so in the light of two beliefs. The first is that, in a wise society, everyone would want to be a teacher, and only the best would be chosen, while everyone else would fill the other jobs in society, like politician, OFSTED inspector and adviser. And the second is that all of us are teachers, because all of us share moments with children when their discoveries need our help and support. Throughout this book, when I use the term ‘teacher’, I mean any adult in a school helping a child to learn.

These two beliefs serve to honour my profession in times when it is routinely denigrated, and to put the writing of poetry in the context of learning. They also place a large responsibility on us all.

In the course of case studies, I offer ways forward in the teaching of that unfashionable thing, poetry. But the emphasis is always on adults, as well as children, as active learners, rather than passive receivers of wisdom, because to treat adults—and children—as mere recipients of other people’s wisdom is to insult them. Some of these studies come from work teachers have shared with me on my travels as a writer in schools. Others, the larger part, stem from my own work on those travels.

I aim to place poetry at the centre of our practice in English teaching, where it has been replaced in recent years by mechanistic views of language. Many people in power see language as merely a matter of communication between different individuals, or even worse, as a matter of spelling, grammatical and punctuation correctness. I aim to show that poetry has a crucial function, like art, across the curriculum (see Sedgwick and Sedgwick 1996a) because its way of enforcing reflection has powerful implications for our thinking in all subjects. I also want to repeat something David Holbrook wrote: ‘If we know what we are doing when we . . .

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