At our recent Beanstalk TRG, the Reading Volunteers were given time to browse and select from a wide range of poems I’d spread across the tables and walls of the room. Charlotte Hacking from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education calls this poetry papering. It’s an activity which provides colleagues with time to browse and choose poems which speak to them as individuals. There is no rush to select and no expectation for the reader to choose a certain poem or enjoy all the poems that are taped to walls, tables and windows! The focus of our TRG is to develop our knowledge of children’s literature: to identify and use a wider range of multi-layered texts with the children we work with to support us in being what Aidan Chambers calls, the enabling adult: the knowledgeable grown up who ‘provides, stimulate, demonstrates and responds.’ Chambers, A. (2011).
During this meeting, I wanted us to respond to poetry, to open up about what we enjoyed and begin to tease out our initial interpretations of the poems. The original TARs research suggested that teachers tend to select poetry to link with a cross-curricular topic, rather than enjoying and savouring the language, form and message for its own sake. If poetry’s aim, as the brilliant poet, Rachel Rooney says is ‘to make words do more than they normally would’ then a couple of hours browsing and chewing over poems is time well spent! As a follow up to the meeting, the Reading Volunteers have been asked to explore more poems by the poet whose work they were drawn to. This isn’t our last TRG meeting with a focus on poetry, but I’ll leave the last word to Charlotte Hacking, who said at a workshop, ‘we need to throw lots of poems at children because we all have very different tastes, and this will help them to find what sticks!’ Surely adults are the same!