An important body of contemporary research on children's literature explores the relationships between the characteristics of texts, the readers' response to the texts, and the relationship of these to education, notably reading skills. Both the theory and the practice has centred around the reading and teaching of poetry, an aspect of children's literature frequently neglected. One reason for this may well be the rift between the concept of poetry inside and outside the classroom. As Alan Tucker, himself a poet, has noted:
When we come to express emotion, to write down even the simplest thing, we quickly find that language is pitiless. Children should not be led into the front line of a language-governed society believing that if only they feel strongly enough the words will come to them…. Contemporary academic poetry (which is most modern poetry) deliberately eschews the content-laden poetry (and idea of poetry) prevalent in school teaching. (Tucker 1989:108)
Generally, though, a great deal of poetry in one form or another is published for children, and the ostensible attitude of the educational world might be summed up in the words of an expert on reading, Jill Bennett: 'Poetry offers a way of seeing and hearing that no other kind of literature can. Its musical quality draws children, appealing to their senses and their emotions' (Bennett 1984:1).
The difficulties and challenges involved in bringing poem, child and theory together can be demonstrated in the following extracts from the work of Michael Benton. The first article, 'Poetry for children: a neglected art' appeared in Children's Literature in Education in 1978.