What should I say to my child?

Mama, tell/recite/read any poem which you remember or learn.

Please, tell me here which word is more appropriate.

2 Answers 2


"Read a poem" means that you are reading it from a book or other printed text.

"Recite a poem" means that you are quoting it, verbatim, without the need for a text.

"Tell" doesn't sound idiomatic in this context at all. "Telling" something normally means that you are speaking extemporaneously, but with poetry, you should stick to the intended words. "Tell a story" is appropriate because a story does not rely on a rhyme scheme or rhythm and so the same content can be told extemporaneously.

"Recite" would, therefore, be the most appropriate word for your sentence, although it does sound a little formal given the context:

Recite any poem that you have learned.

Some English speakers might use the expression "say a poem", especially the kind of poems a child might learn, such as "nursery rhymes". Some even say "sing a nursery rhyme", regardless of whether the rhyme is set to music or not.

This ngram shows that "recite" is mostly used for speaking poems.

This ngram shows that "recite" is also most widely used with "nursery rhymes", but also that "sing" and "say" are used almost as frequently as one another.


Recite - to repeat from memory or read aloud publicly

Recite is used when you are performing something, such as a poetry reading or a dance.

You ask what you'd say to a child, but unless you're calling your child Mama, this is something your child would say to you.

Mama, recite me a poem you remember or learned.

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