FINLAND
Spotlight on children’s poetry

‘Runoraitti’, a joint project between two libraries and one educational institution, aims to encourage children to read and write poetry.

Children’s poetry has not traditionally been particularly prominent in the children’s section of libraries. On the contrary, it has been difficult to find poetry. The reader can nonetheless get a lot out of children’s poetry. The melodic and diverse language of children’s poetry develops their language skills, and children can get words from poems, for example, to express their own feelings. These reasons, combined with Library Director Mervi Heikkilä’s personal interest in children’s poetry as an art form, inspired the Nurmo municipal library, Lapua’s city library and Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences to start the joint project, Runoraitti.

Runoraitti began in 2006 with a day seminar on children’s poetry, in which both teachers and library staff participated. Additionally, the project included many different presentations; authors of children’s poetry told school children about their writing, professional actors performed poetry presentations, and pre-schoolers listened to songs composed from their favourite children’s poems.

Library staff in both municipalities participating in the project put together poetry bags for children of different ages. The bags contained poetry notebooks for students, a comprehensive anthology of Finnish poems, nursery rhymes and a folder with poetryrelated assignments. Classes or day-care groups can borrow these bags from the library. In Lapua, the bags were passed around from one school to another via the library bus. The poetry-related assignments got the children excited about reading poems and writing their own. The children’s poems have been on display at both Nurmo and Lapua libraries and on the project’s website. Two students, Pia Rask and Elisa Vikström, from Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, participated in the project preparing poetry reviews for elementary school classes. The children responded enthusiastically to the poetry reviews and after class were given a nursery rhyme card as a souvenir made by the students.

At both libraries, Lapua and Nurmo, loans of children’s poetry increased with the project. “I noticed that during the Runoraitti project, when the poetry shelves were moved to a more central place in the library, poetry books were frequently borrowed. Now that they have been moved back to their previous place, it is more difficult to notice if they are being borrowed. I think they are being borrowed a little less frequently,” librarian Liisa Pohjanen from Lapua city library says thoughtfully.

Pohjanen feels the project’s most important contribution was that knowledge of children’s poetry in Lapua increased on a broad scale among daycare staff, teachers and children. She says, “I think that Runoraitti left a spark for children’s poetry in many. Finland has many diverse and gifted poets and children’s poetry is nice to read and it enriches teaching.”

The Runoraitti project peaked in May, 2007 with the publication of its own website. The website has a collection of interviews with Finnish poets of children’s poetry, background information about children’s poetry, reading tips for poems and the poetry assignments from the poetry bags. The Runoraitti website was designed in a clear and easy way for children to use. However, the website also includes material for adults to use, especially professional teachers. This sort of website, which focuses only on children’s poetry and presents authors of children’s poetry, has never existed before in the Finnish language. Judging by the number of visitors, the website has been enthusiastically received. In the future there will be the challenge of developing the website and constantly updating author information.

Director Mervi Hekkilä of Nurmo’s municipal library, together with Marko Patteri, office secretary for the Lapua city library, director Marita Hakala and librarian Liisa Pohjanen, has designed the content of the website. Marko Patteri is responsible for transferring it to the Internet. Illustrations were done by artist Ritva Lindberg. The project obtained funding from Finland’s Ministry of Education.

Link: www.runoraitti.fi

Mervi Heikkilä
Library Director
Nurmo Municipal Library

mervi.heikkila AT nurmo.fi

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Director of libraries, Seinäjoki