Nikita Gill: poetry is essential for children

June 24, 2022

Each year the CLiPPA (CLPE Children’s Poetry Award) celebrates the best new published poetry for children. Ahead of the announcement of this year’s winner at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday 8 July, one of the judges – NPD ambassador Nikita Gill – judge for this year reflects on the importance of the CLiPPA, and on why poetry is so essential for children.

As children, poetry holds a thousand worlds of our emotions. It makes space for the very same emotions that we may often find dismissed by the adults around us. Poetry celebrates the sensitive, understands the tiny joys and validates the anger we feel as children. It gives us words to voice our pain and furthermore, the emotional vocabulary to truly express ourselves.

This level of emotional understanding is precisely what children need from an early age, especially when encountering great and profound emotions for the very first time. The ability to be able to see those feelings in poems is powerful.

...the value of poems cannot be understated here – to see yourself in a poem is a gift and I truly believe poetry is for everyone.

This is why the work of the CLiPPA is so important. When I was a child, I came upon poetry purely by accident and it took a lot of work to access the poetry I was looking for. When I did finally find those poems, it was revolutionary and it changed my life. I became more self-aware, more empathetic and processed the world around me in a healthier way than ever before. With the CLiPPA, children have a means and a way to access poems across a wide range age groups and have a diverse range of poetry available to them from anthologies to verse novels to poems to be read aloud.

Last year as a shortlisted poet for the anthology SLAM!, it was revelation to see how wonderfully young people engaged with the poems of the short list. One young person told me they felt seen by many of the poems within SLAM! because the poets themselves were so diverse. Representation on the page matters and without the CLiPPA, the young people I spoke to may never come across SLAM! Of course, the value of poems cannot be understated here – to see yourself in a poem is a gift and I truly believe poetry is for everyone.

This year, as a judge, the number of books we were sent to read was deeply heartening, as was the wonder within each and every book. There were poems about love and joy, and peace and hope – all important in these troubled times of ours. But essentially, there was something there for every child – a way to see themselves in the world through poems. It was hard to narrow down to a shortlist of five simply because the quality of the books was so high, believe me we had a hard job as judges!

My experiences with the CLiPPA firmly reinstated for me for that language belongs to us all, and that children and young people deserve to know this from the earliest age possible. That through the language of poetry, they can change their world and make it a better, kinder place.

The full 2022 CLiPPA shortlist is:

  • Stars with Flaming Tails by Valerie Bloom, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max (Otter-Barry Books)
  • Being Me Poems about Thoughts, Worries and Feelings by Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha, illustrated by Victoria Jane Wheeler (Otter-Barry Books)
  • Caterpillar Cake by Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Krina Patel-Sage (Otter-Barry Books)
  • The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin)
  • Cloud Soup by Kate Wakeling, illustrated by Elina Brasliņa (The Emma Press)
Nikita Gill

Nikita Gill

Nikita Gill is an Irish-Indian poet with a world-wide fan-base, who has the attention of 600,000 Instagram followers for poetry collections and plays that offer a largely female readership the chance to recognise the value of their own experiences. Nikita has given a Tedx Talk, spoken at every major literary festival in the U.K., been shortlisted for the Goodreads Choice Award in poetry three times and has recently made her first foray into music having written for Anoushka Shankar’s newest single, 'Sister Susannah'. She has written six collections of poetry, and a novel in verse which highlights Hindu mythology. Her newest collection, Where Hope Comes From, is out now. Her new YA collection, These are the Words, will be published in August.