April is National Poetry Month, a time when we celebrate poets and their craft. Poetry is playful and introduces language to children in a unique way. Poems can provide a window into another world where we can understand the lives, perspectives, and experiences of different people and places. The best place I have found poems to share with kids is through books. Not all poetry books are created equal, so here are some of my favorite poetry books for kids.
You can click on any of the covers below to learn more about each book.
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Feel the Beat by Marilyn Singer
This vibrant collection of poems celebrates all forms of social dance from samba and salsa to tango and hip-hop. The rhythm of each poem mimics the beat of the dances’ steps. Combined with the dynamic illustrations, these poems create a window to all the ways dance enters our lives and exists throughout many cultures. This collection will inspire readers to get up and move!
All the Wild Wonders by Wendy Cooling
This collection of poems celebrates Earth and makes children look, think, and ask questions. Why are trees so important? How are highways damaging our countrysides? What can we do about garbage? What can we do to protect our Earth for the future?
With My Hands by Amy Ludwig VanDerwaer
Building, baking, folding, drawing, shaping . . . making something with your own hands is a special, personal experience. Taking an idea from your imagination and turning it into something real is satisfying and makes the maker proud. This collection of poems inspires children to tap into their creativity and enjoy the hands-on energy that comes from making things.
Silver Seeds by Paul Paolilli
The poems in this book, done in a creative acrostic format, show us the world of nature in a different light. Beginning with daybreak and ending with a beautiful interpretation of night, the poems include striking images of the sun, fog, and rain.
Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer
What’s brewing when two favorites—poetry and fairy tales—are turned (literally) on their heads? It’s a revolutionary recipe: an infectious new genre of poetry and a lovably modern take on classic stories. First, read the poems forward and then reverse the lines and read again to give familiar tales, from Sleeping Beauty to that Charming Prince, a delicious new spin.
Cricket in the Thicket by Carol Murray
In addition to the playful rhyming poems, readers will also learn surprising facts about bugs of all kinds―from familiar ants to exotic dragonflies, cringe-worthy ticks and magnificent fireflies. The collage-inspired mixed-media illustrations beautifully render these creatures and compliment the poems’ whimsical tones. This is an enchanting and informative look at a perennial topic of interest for kids―cool bugs!
Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub
This collection of poems takes young readers to a day at an urban farmers’ market. Who to see, what to eat, and how produce is grown—it’s all so exciting, fresh, and delicious. Readers are invited to peruse the stands and inspect vendors’ wares with poems like “Farmer Greg’s Free-Range Eggs,” “Summer Checklist,” and “Necessary Mess.”
Wet Cement by Bob Raczka
Who says words need to be concrete? This collection shapes poems in surprising and delightful ways that show kids how to look at words and poetry in a whole new way. Concrete poetry is a perennially popular poetic form because they are fun to look at. But by using the arrangement of the words on the page to convey the meaning of the poem, concrete or shape poems are also easy to write!
Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill
This book of poetry is a tribute to the many beautiful colors we see around us. For each color, there is the sound, the feel, the taste, the smell, and the relationship of that color to another.
If You Want to Find Golden by Eileen Spinelli
A tour in verse and paint through the city reveals all the colors of the rainbow, from the gold of the rising sun reflected in the windows of a skyscraper to the brown of a teddy bear in a storefront.
Tan to Tamarind by Malathi Michelle Iyengar
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? This collection of poems travels the rich spectrum of shades within the color brown, from swirls of henna decorating ochre hands and feet at an Indian wedding to cinnamon lips smiling over a cup of café con leche to leaves drifting like stars onto upturned russet faces in the fall. The poetry encourages young ones to embrace each other’s differences while building self-esteem and a healthy self-image.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments—and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns that he does have something to say. This story, written as a series of free-verse poems from Jack’s point of view, shows how one boy named Jack finds his voice with the help of a teacher, a pencil, some yellow paper, and of course, a dog.
Dogku by Andrew Clements
Wandering through the neighborhood in the early-morning hours, a stray pooch follows his nose to a back-porch door. After a bath and some table scraps from Mom, the dog meets three lovable kids. It’s all wags and wiggles until Dad has to decide if this stray pup can become the new family pet. Has Mooch finally found a home? This book is told entirely in haiku poems.
Poems by Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein is a master at writing funny and memorable poems. You’ll meet a boy who turns into a TV set, a girl who eats a whale, Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out, Backward Bill, and the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire. You will find out what happens when Somebody steals your knees, get caught by the Quick-Digesting Gink, and talk with the Broiled Face. And finally, his poems take you to a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist.
Poems by Jack Prelutsky
Jack Prelutsky has a way with words that kids adore. In his poems you’ll meet Miss Misinformation, Gladiola Gloppe (and her Soup Shoppe), the world’s worst singer, and the greatest video game player in history. You’ll be introduced to jellyfish stew, a bouncing mouse, a ridiculous dog, and a boneless chicken. Through his poems kids will learn why you shouldn’t argue with a shark, eat a dinosaur, or have an alligator for a pet.
Poems by Kalli Dakos
Kalli Dakos writes funny poems about the surprises, pleasures, and trials of life in elementary school! These poems explore the secret lives of school lunches, jungle gyms, pencils, and more. Your kids will enjoy poems like “Cure for a Boring School Day”, “Eric is Allergic to Girls”, “Caleb’s Desk is a Mess”, and “Poor Substitute”.
Poetry Books by Bruce Lansky
Bruce Lansky writes his own poems, but also shares poetry written by other authors in his books. Kids will enjoy his new take on the adventures of Mother Goose characters like Humpty Dumpty, Little-Bo-Peep, and Jack and Jill along with poems like “My Noisy Brother”, “Toes in My Nose”, and “How to Torture Your Teacher”.
Poetry for Young People
The Poetry for Young People collection brings readers into the world of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman, and more!
Favorite Things to Do with Poetry in the Classroom
You have a collection of poetry books to share with your students – now what? I love to use poems for shared reading and fluency practice in the classroom. Often I will type up a copy of a poem and the students will place it in their reading folder. We use colored pencils and crayons to highlight rhymes, repetition, alliteration, and more!
After reading the poem several times, I allow my students to draw and color a picture to match the poem to work on visualization. This is often done on the backside of the previous poem so when the folder is laying flat, the illustration is on the left and the poem is on the right. Throughout the week students can read independently, with a partner, and sometimes I have even done choral readings with the whole class. With so many repeated readings throughout the week, even my most reluctant readers are willing to try!
Because the students begin to develop a love of reading poetry, it naturally carries over into their writing. I introduce many types of poems to my students: acrostic, haiku, shape (concrete) poems, cinquains, color poems, diamante, free verse, and more! You can read about our “When No One is Looking” poems here and our Rainbow Poems here. If you would like a set of Air and Weather poems to use with your students, you’ll find those here.
What are some of your favorite poetry books for kids? I’d love to check them out!