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Kenneth Koch on Teaching Great Poetry to Children

“The usual criteria for choosing poems to teach children are mistaken, if one wants poetry to be more than a singsong sort of Muzak in the background of their elementary education. It can be so much more. These criteria are total understandability, which stunts children’s poetic education by giving them nothing to understand they have not already understood; ‘childlikeness’ of theme and treatment, which condescends to their feelings and to their intelligence; and ‘familiarity,’ which obliges them to go on reading the same inappropriate poems their parents and grandparents had to read.”

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