10 Diverse Poetry Books for Kids

Do you read poetry with your kids? Although I read a wide variety of children’s books, I don’t read as much poetry as I should. April is National Poetry Month and I’m giving myself a challenge: read one poem with the kids every night at bedtime. Will you join me?

A list of diverse poetry books for kids

Just as I make an effort to ensure I read books with diverse characters with my kids, I’m doing the same with poetry. The culturally diverse poetry on this list span a wide range of topics. Some are simply about play, others are about ethnic identity, and some are just fun poems accompanied by illustrations that reflect the multicultural world our children inhabit. I encourage you to check some of these books out of your library, share them with your kids and use them as springboards for conversations about their own sense of identity. (Note: titles and covers are affiliate links.)

Culturally Diverse Poetry for Kids


A Full Moon Is Rising is the most truly multicultural selection on this list. Marilyn Singer’s poems celebrate the magic of a full moon as it is experience around the globe.  There are poems set it the city, the country and across the world from Africa to China to Columbia. Different religious and ethnic traditions are represented, including Sukkot, moon watching in Canada and the Chinese Moon Festival. This is truly a multicultural collection! The end papers even include notes and a map of all the locations that appear throughout the book.


A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play is another collection by award-winning poet Marilyn Singer. Poems celebrate kids playing in the great outdoors, from the monkey bars at the playground to urban sidewalks to backyard sprinklers. Every single page features a diverse group of faces and almost every child will see someone who looks like them in this book. I only wish the collaborators had thought to illustrate a child with a physical disability in the book (they like to play, too!); then it would be perfect.


Confetti: Poems for Children is a joyful collection of short poems sprinkled with Spanish words. Pat Mora has done a wonderful job composing poems that will appeal to very young children on a range of subjects like colors, nature, counting and everyday moments. One of my favorites is “Leaf Soup.”


Once Around the Sun. This recommendation came to me via Ink and Pen’s list of 5 poetry collections featuring diversity. Each month gets its own poem capturing the type of childhood moments we might look back on with nostalgia. In the background, a diverse group of children romp and play through the seasons and around their city.


A Poke in the I is a collection of “concrete poems.” Concrete poems are poems in which the visual arrangement of the words on the page are as essential to the meaning as the text itself.  For example, the text of the poem “Giraffe” is printed out in the shape of a giraffe. “Tennis Anyone” will have your eyes bouncing back and forth across the page. Kids love concrete poems for their playful nature, and creating their own concrete poems is a wonderfully fun writing exercise. Raschka’s stylized illustrations feature characters in every color.


One Leaf Rides the Wind is a collection of counting poems in the haiku style. The poems follow a young girl as she explores a traditional Japanese garden. This is a great introduction to haiku and also includes information about gardens, haikus, and their place in Japanese culture.


Each poem in The Blacker the Berry is named after a color, like “Golden Goodness,” “Cranberry Red,” or “Coffee Will Make You Black” to celebrate a wide range of skin tones. I love the acknowledgement that “black” is not a single shade and illustrator Floyd Cooper’s cheerful faces that peer up at the reader from the pages of the book. I would hate, though, for parents to think that a book such as this one is not relevant to them if they are not African-American. It’s such a great conversation starter and children of all ethnicities will do well to appreciate the joy that is to be found in one’s heritage. (ALA Notable Book; Coretta Scott King Award)


Iguanas in the Snow: And Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la Nieve: Y Otros Poemas de Invierno is a bilingual collection of poems that is part of a four book series spanning the seasonal year. Each short poem in free verse is in both Spanish and English, presenting snapshots of a diverse group of children enjoying wintery life to the fullest.


In Daddy’s Arms I Am Talis a collection of poems honoring fathers, specifically African-American fathers, but of course children of all races and cultures will be able to relate to the feelings and attitudes expressed in the poems. Some of the poetic imagery and language is sophisticated, for ages 7 and up, but there is something for everyone here. (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award )


Meet Danitra Brown is a collection of exuberant poems narrated by a young girl, Zuri Jackson, about her best friend, Danitra. I’ve never read a poetry book like this; it’s a joyful ode to a friend and I love the idea. It would be a great writing project for kids, too — to have them write poems about their friends. (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award)


I love Javaka Steptoe’s collages that illustrate Nikki Grimes’ haiku in A Pocketful of Poems. Tiana has pocketful of words and each word inspires a delightful short poem. I’m especially fond of haiku as “poetry for beginners” and its short form makes it easy to share with even the youngest kids.

So, will you join my poem a day challenge? Will you read some diverse poetry with your kids? Do you have any other multicultural poems to recommend?

If this list inspires you, be sure to peruse these additional poetry lists:

  1. Essential poetry books for kids over at The Pleasantest Thing.
  2. Haiku book list
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Comments

  1. I’m in! I used to recite poetry and wrote poems, so it is one of my favorite activity as a parent too. Thanks for the challenge!

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      Great! I started yesterday but my son wanted me to read the entire poetry book, not just one poem, so I guess it was a successful beginning!

  2. Thanks for the great list, Erica! I’ve been subscribing to your site for quite awhile (I found it on Pragmatic Mom), but this is the first time that I’ve commented.

    I’m a HUGE fan of haiku picture books, and of Wonton especially. I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago & she mentioned a sequel with Wonton and a dog character. I am eagerly awaiting it!

    Here are some others that are also well done:

    A new one by Jon J. Muth, Hi, Koo! (featuring Koo, Stillwater’s nephew)

    Dogku by Andrew Clements

    Grace Lin’s Our Seasons with seasonal-oriented haikus and a longer nonfiction explanations.

    For general nature-oriented poetry, I love all of Joyce Sidman’s work–it’s stellar.

    Marilyn Singer’s reverso poems are amazing in Mirror Mirror and the sequel, Follow, Follow.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      Thank you so much for leaving a comment, Maria. I love these recommendations you have for more poetry books. A couple of them are new to me and I look forward to checking them out!

  3. Erica,
    My first time here at this vibrant world you’ve created. Brava to you.
    Glad for these titles.

    I read in Kindergarten through the volunteer BookPALS effort, of the Screen Actors Guild.
    I’m espcially glomming onto MEET DANITRA BROWN not only to read to the kiddos ( a word I’ve used for years am not appropriating… but also for my own book list at my blog/site -

    Bookseedstudio
    http://bookseedstudio.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/a-young-poet-in-character/

    I became Intrigued with the young poet-making character, Calpurnia, in THE SECRET RIVER, recently reissued with artwork from Leo & Daine Dillon.
    Now, I’m on the hunt for titles of picture books, chapter books or even middle grade novels, where a young character also writes poems.

    If you can help, I’d be in your debt.

    many thanks,

    Jan

    ps Manhattan is where we brought our daughter as often as we could from her birth state & our re-located home, Florida, to learn about great city parks, museums & sky-high views. She’s now in Boston in college & still loves NYC.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      That’s a good question about a character who likes to write poems. I’m sure there is one! Thanks for your comment!

  4. Thank you for sharing poetry books! I am all up for reading them to kids and experiencing the fun and aliveness of poems. I just self-published my first book; it is a poem mixed up with yoga poses to raise awareness about our beautiful rainforests. I invite to come check out a few posts I wrote about it.
    Btw, I found you through Kid Lit Blog Hop.
    Thereza Howling

  5. Wow! Who knew there were so many children’s poetry books? I used to love reading and writing poetry when I was younger. Thank you for sharing!

  6. ccarpinello says:

    Thanks for the great selection of children’s poetry books. Going to look into these. Stopping by from the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Do you read poetry with your kids? April is National Poetry Month so it’s the perfect time to get started. A JIBA favorite, Erica at What Do We Do All Day has this wonderful post. […]

  2. […] saying. We’re going on a scavenger hunt to see what we can dig up! We’re checking out these great recommendations from What Do We Do All Day and The Pleasantest Thing for inspiration. If you want to dig with us, you can download my free […]

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