We say that poetry teatimes are the "gateway drug to a language-rich home." They’re the lure, the enticement, the shiznits of all we’re about. And they’re free—no product purchase necessary.
You can learn the details of how to hold a Poetry Teatime in our free Quick Start Guide. But let’s look at why it works and what it does in your family, if you’ll just jump off the ledge and give it a go (even if right now, you think you hate poetry).
Here’s what happens when you take an hour a week to read poetry and drink beverages in tea cups or mugs with a few sweet treats for munchies.
Everyone. The whole bunch of you gather and every person is equally important to the tea—baby, toddler, little kidlet, middler, teen, parent. It’s a moment in the day where the whole gang comes together.
The workbooks, the calculator, the DVD instructions, the playing with toys, the reading to oneself, the “moving a load of laundry from one machine to the other.” It all comes to a halt for an hour.
Poetry books once stacked, enough for everyone to page through, are passed around the table. The readers, read. Long poems, short verses, paired-reading poetry, recited tongue twisters and limericks. Everyone reads—at whatever level they can—the exact poems they want to read. This is not “drumming out a few pages to prove you can read” reading, but a joyful dive into material selected by oneself to share with others!
Even *non-readers* read. They hunt for clues on the page that tell them that *this* poem, *this* verse is worth hearing. They look at fonts, and pictures, and words they recognize and they make good guesses—”Hey! I think I’d like hearing that poem.” They pass the book to a neighboring, willing reader and almost always want to follow along. Their selection is being read! They picked it! Reading is elevated to a goal, to a sacred practice, to being as cool as the big kids, to “I can almost read because I picked that poem!”
TEA is drunk.
Or the beverage of your choice or your kids’ choice. Hydration (we forget to drink enough already, which causes headaches and crankiness), the soothing ritual of tea (blowing the steam off, slowing down to sip, adding milk, sugar, or honey, stirring and tinkling the cup), tipping a teapot and being careful not to spill…. rituals that alter the rush and race of life.
TREATS are enjoyed.
Sweet snacks, like brownies or scones or muffins or cookies or sliced cinnamon-sugar oranges or apple crescents or bunches of grapes, equal ‘happy’ smack dab in the middle of the day. The boost of sweet, the chance to munch, the shared pleasure of rare treats guarantees pleasant attitudes.
Poetry is a stealth writing form. It sneaks in through the backdoor and jumps you when you don’t expect it. T. S. Eliot says that poetry is “a raid on the inarticulate.” Rhymes, riddles, verse, ballads, sonnets, villanelles —whether you “get” the poem or not, there are words for pleasure and pondering, tickling and testing in your own mouth. Laughter and puzzlement are part of poetry. Poems enrich vocabulary, imagery, and the pairing of unlikely ideas… which gets a writer’s juices going! Poetry says “Come out and play with me.”
A poem in your pocket, or shared over a bagel, or savored later in the day, once you take time to reread it, is like opening a love letter. There’s a little thrill—What will this set of words show me today that I never thought of before? Next week, and the next, you’ll notice favorite poems recycle and certain poetic forms revisited. Slowly, your family creates a shared poetic language that is uniquely yours. It’s different than story—poetry spans the ages more readily, and more quickly.
Poetry Teatimes SHIFT your priorities.
When “learning” shows up as pleasurable and free, undistracted and rich, it’s harder to go back to dead forms of education. Other ideas to enliven the tedious or difficult subjects will dawn on you, as you move toward connection over completion.
Find a poem, put the kettle on, lay out a few Oreos on a small plate, and get started. You can add a flower arrangement and table cloth next week. Just jump in.
Life gets better with poetry and tea.