Children’s Librarian Picks Her Top 10 Favorite Poetry Books for Kids



By Noelle, Librarian Extraordinaire

It is National Poetry Month and I know that many of us think of poetry and cringe, remembering having to pick out the imagery in the “Charge of the Light Brigade” or something similar in high school (shudder).    But poetry for kids can be fun, inventive and—get this—illustrated!  Even for the youngest children, rhyming is a proven extremely important piece that they need to understand to be able to learn how to read effectively.

I Write The Songs That Make….Poetry?!?!??

If you STILL think you don’t like poetry, take the music out of any song with lyrics and just read the lyrics.  Ta da!  POETRY!  A song is poetry set to music.  See, you DO like poetry!  A fun thing to do is to take a poem and try and set it to music.  You’ll find many poems lend themselves to sing-songy reading or else you can use a common tune (“Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for example) and see if you can turn that poem into a song.

One of the most important things to remember about poetry is that it is written to be READ ALOUD.  While reading silently can still be fun, let the words roll of your tongue instead and you’ll understand what I mean.  My daughter’s teacher has her students read a poem (the same one) aloud to different people all week as homework.  EVERY week.  She says it builds reading fluency and she’s absolutely correct.

And Now For a Top 10…

There are many fabulous books of poetry for children, but here are a handful that you can try out and hopefully will love right along with your kids.

Joyful Noise

1. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman.  Fleischman won a Newbery Award for this collection of poetry written from the point of view of insects.  What actually makes it fantastic is that he writes the  poems in 2 columns with the purpose of people taking turns reading the lines (and sometimes you read the same line at the same time).  The poetry itself is wonderful and the reading WITH someone makes it special.  You can get an idea of what it sounds like here – Try it, I bet you’ll like it!

Mirror Mirror

2. Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer. This cool book features poems written about fairy tales but the real twist here is you can read the poem frontwards AND backwards and it makes two  poems—alike yet different!  I also am a fan of her poetry book Fireflies at Midnight which contains great poems about animals.

Lunch Money

3. Lunch Money by Carol Diggory Shields. This is a classic collection of poetry   about common school stories from recess to homework to bullies.  If your kids like to laugh, they’ll get a chuckle out of these poems.  You can follow it up with Almost Late to School.

Song of the Water Boatman

4. Song of the Water Boatman  & Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman.  Sidman has emerged as a premiere poet for children, using nature as her subject.  With wonderful illustrations, she draws you into the world of the pond.  Even better,   each poem is accompanied with facts on the creature it is about.   Try out her others: Ubiquitous and Dark Emperor.

Wabi Sabi

5. Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein. So this isn’t exactly a traditional poetry book.  It is the story of a cat named Wabi Sabi who goes on a journey trying to understand what her name means (based on the Japanese world view of beauty  being  imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete).  The book is written in spare text but also in haiku as the cat wanders.  It is a great way to introduce haiku to children paired with a story. Plus the artwork is fabulous collage work.  A win all around!

A Frog Inside My Hat

6. A Frog Inside My Hat: A First Book of Poems compiled by Fay Robinson. If you are just introducing your child to poetry, this is a great first book.  Bright pictures, large fonts and simple fun poems to share by a myriad of authors. You can’t go wrong.

I'll Be You and You Be Me

7. I’ll Be You and You Be Me by Ruth Krauss. There’s something charming about this small book illustrated by Maurice Sendak.   The poetry is silly and nonsense but lyrical and entertaining all the same about every day things.  A book that makes you feel like you can write poetry, too.

The New Kid on the Block

8. The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky. Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with the band, New Kids On the Block. Prelutsky is a name most kids learn when poetry is mentioned for good reason.  He is prolific and his poetry is very funny.  You can’t go wrong with his many works.  One of my other favorites is his scary collection, The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight: More Poems to Trouble Your Sleep.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

9.  Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I imagine I’d be lynched if I didn’t mention Silverstein.  He’s long been held as the gold standard where children’s poetry is concerned.  Many of his poems are hilarious and he isn’t  afraid to call silly behavior silly and stupid behavior stupid.   In fact, one of my favorite poems of his is called “Smart” where the subject is anything but. Readers will want his other books: Runny Babbit, Falling Up and A Light in the Attic.

Shape Me a Rhyme

10. Shape Me a Rhyme by Jane Yolen is one of many poetry books by this prolific author. Yolen has also written picture books, easy readers and chapter books for kids. She teams up for several with her son Jason Stemple taking photographs and Jane writing lovely poems to go along with them.  The photography alone is worth a look, but as a team, they find shapes in nature to show us and write about.  Beautiful!

Is That A Poem In Your Pocket Or Do You Just Like To Rhyme?

Don’t forget that Poem in Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 26th.  The idea is to take a copy of a poem you love and carry it in your pocket to share throughout the day.    Maybe you won’t do it, but you could encourage your children to!

Hopefully some of you will pick up one of these books (your local library is sure to have at least some of them!) and try out the wonders of poetry with your kids.

So forget about Keats, Coleridge and Donne and instead take it down a few notches to enjoy poetry with your kids.  Celebrate!

NoelleNoelle has been a children’s librarian for over 15 years. She’s also been a student teacher, worked as an online account manager, worked in a pet shop and as a supermarket checkout clerk, and as a dishwasher and fry cook. She is the proud mom of a beautiful daughter. You can read more of Noelle’s book reviews at Rave Reviews Log

Noelle can be reached at “Noelle @ DadDoes.Com”

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