Whenever I talk about poetry I hear a handful of comments along the lines of "I can't get into poetry," "I don't understand poetry," "I don't know how to read poetry," or the perennial, "Poetry is boring!" In honor of National Poetry Month I thought it fitting I put together a list of poetry books that will make you (and everyone in your family) love reading poems. I promise these are all unique, non-boring poetry books!
I suppose if all you know of poetry is Byron or Tennyson, poetry might seem a little dull. I confess, long, flowery poems are not my first choice of reading material, either. Plus, I would never introduce poetry to my kids by reading the Romantics to them! However, if you are reading rhyming books to your kids you are already reading them poetry! How about that! Poetry comes in many interesting and -- dare I say it? -- FUN forms.
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Before you give up, check a few of these poetry collections out of the library. Read some of them out loud to your kids and find out how creative and entertaining poetry can really be. (Note: Covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. My 10 year old told me he thought many of the poems in this book were quite funny. These is certainly one of the most unique poetry books we have read! Each short, clever poem is made up using only the letters in a single word. They are puzzle poems, waiting teased out from the letters scattered on the page. I adored the way the poems captured the essence of ordinary life events.
Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young are a classic pair of poetry books with short, easily digestible poems. I’m sure you recognize Milne as the author of the Winnie the Pooh stories. If you enjoy Winnie the Pooh, or even if you’ve never read it (and you should) give these a try. They are especially good when read aloud.
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems. This book is a little bit nuts! Fairy tales provide the inspiration for each poem which are read forwards and in reverse For example, "In the Hood," read forwards is narrated from the perspective of the wolf. When it is read in reverse, we hear Red Riding Hood's voice. Singer followed up this creative collection with the aptly named Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems.
Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. An entire story told in haiku? Awesome! This is the story of a shelter cat and his new adopted life. With bold illustrations, this is a wonderful, funny and unique book. After you've read this one, be sure to catch the new Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku.
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Arithme-Tickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle-Rhymes. Got a math loving kid? Or, maybe a poetry loving kid who needs to see the fun side of math? Each of the 18 poems has a math problem itching to be solved. Needless to say, my older son loved this one.
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Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings. It is probable that if you are a parent of a certain generation (ahem), you will be familiar with the delightfully kooky poems of Shel Silverstein. If for some reason you've never read a Silverstein poem, start now.
It's Raining Pigs & Noodles. You can really take your pick of any of Prelutsky's books (and he has MANY). Like Silverstein, his poems are both silly, profound and speak pointedly to the experience of being a child.
GUYKU: A Year of Haiku for Boys. I truly adore this book, partly because being a mom of two boys I recognize the spirited and mischievous nature of boys so aptly translated to the haiku form. (That’s not to say girls are spirited and mischievous, but I don’t have daughters. If you’re a girl and want to protest you can do so at the Guyku website!)
Out of This World: Poems and Facts about Space. If you have a child who loves nonfiction books, and pours over tomes filled with fascinating facts, then this is a poetry collection to try. Each poem about space is accompanied by a paragraph explaining the phenomenon described in the poem. For example, a haiku about footprints on the moon shares the page with facts about the moon's surface.
Looking Like Me. I love the upbeat tempo of Myers' poetry in this book! A young boy, Jeremy, narrates this poem/picture book. It starts as he looks in the mirror, declaring, "That's who I am." He then meets friends and family in his city neighborhood, all of whom describe him differently. He is a brother, artist, runner, writer, and more. The poem is an infectious, joyful celebration of one boy's self-esteem and identity. This is a wonderful poem to read with your kids and then have a conversation about all the different aspects of who they are.
A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems 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.
Poetry Speaks to Children (Book & CD). Okay, I hear you. You aren't sure how to read poems. Let someone else do the heavy lifting with this volume of poetry. The CD boasts tracks of poems, both modern and classic being read aloud. Many of them are read by the author, including the illustrious Robert Frost.