M2: Education - Rap and Reggae Key to Verse FACTFILE; Poetry Is the Theme of World Book Day in Birmingham on Thursday, but Can Children Appreciate Verse? DIANE PARKES Reports
Byline: DIANE PARKES
RAP, reggae and popular music are the route to Keats, Tennyson and Wordsworth according to Birmingham Poet Laureate Roi Kwabena.
Encouraging children to love poetry in workshops across the city he has learned that poetry needs to be relevant to youngsters.
'When I was growing up in Trinidad I was reading English poetry and it was not about my environment so it was difficult to feel for it,' he says. 'So when we are with young people we talk about the songs they appreciate and their lyrics and the fact that the lyrics are just a kind of poetry. Once they appreciate this they can go on to understand more about poetry.'
Roi believes spoken verse is central to society and will always remain so.
'It is an ancient tradition across all civilisations,' he says. 'An oral tradition exists all over the planet so it is multicultural. Wherever you look there is a rich treasure trove of literature which has existed as poetry.
'When we talk about literacy we shouldn't just be thinking about reading and writing, we also need to appreciate the role of poetry.
And there is a great value in the poetry which occurs in music - it is not all about pages in books.'
Children respond to verse, says Roi, whether spoken or sung. 'I wrote my first poetry book when I was 18 and I am pushing 46 now,' says Roi, 'and I know from the workshops that children love responding to poetry. We encourage children to write their own verse but we also encourage parents.
'Mothers make up ditties to sing to their little babies to send them to sleep so why can't they continue making songs and poems together as a family even when the children are into their teens? …