Here’s something you might not have thought you’d be putting on your gratitude list this year.
But ya know what? Celebrating Thanksgiving with a special poem or two will make your holiday a unique event. And if you start early, there is plenty of time for your children to memorize a classic, modern or even funny poem to recite at dinner.
Just think how impressed your in-laws will be!
As you might know, I am a poetry addict, which is why I’ve encouraged your family to embrace poetry at Christmas, read it before bedtime, and even recite a spooky Halloween poem or two. And since I believe that a memorized poem is one of the best gifts a child can take with them into adulthood, you won’t be surprised to hear me promoting Thanksgiving poetry, as well.
Not to fret, if you’re new to the joys of poetry (and even if you aren’t), we’ve done the leg work for you. We’ve collected some great kid-friendly classic poems that you can print out, links to some of our favorite contemporary Thanksgiving poems, and a few poetry books that you can rush out and pick up at your library.
Classic Thanksgiving Poems for Kids and Families
Fill out the form below and get a printable version of the following classic Thanksgiving poems. We chose poems by women, one of the first published African-American poets, a Muskogee Creek poet, and others, including a poem you are sure to find very, very familiar!
- “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” (1844) by Lydia Maria Child
- “Merry Autumn” (1913) and “Signs of the Times” (1896) by Paul Laurence Dunbar
- “When the Frost is on the Punkin” (1913) by James Whitcomb Riley
- “The Thanksgivings” (1908) by Harriet Maxwell Converse
- “One day is there of the series” (1896) by Emily Dickinson
- “Autumn” (1910) by Alexander Posey
More learning resources can be found here:
- A biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar, “one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition.”
- A teaching guide for Emily Dickenson’s poem
- Read a biography of Harriet Maxwell Converse, the first white woman elected as an honorary Six Nations Chief.
- Learn about Muskogee Creek poet Alexander Posey
Contemporary Thanksgiving Poems
Because the following poems remain under copyright, I have not included them on my printable. I’ve included a short excerpt from each. Click through on the links below to read them. You will love them!
Thanksgiving Day I like to see“Thanksgiving Magic” by Rowena Bastin Bennett
Our cook perform her witchery.
She turns a pumpkin into pie
As easily as you or I
Can wave a hand or wink an eye.
When I think how far the onion has traveled“The Traveling Onion” by Naomi Shihab Nye
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
When the night winds whistle through the trees and blow the crisp brown leaves a-crackling down,“Thanksgiving Time” by Langston Hughes
When the autumn moon is big and yellow-orange and round,
…A week before Thanksgiving“América” by Richard Blanco
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
…give them the memory of their first step“Prayer for My Immigrant Relatives” by Lory Bedikian
onto solid land, after much ocean, air and clouds,
remind them of the phone call back home saying,
We arrived. Yes, thank God we made it, we are here.
Thanksgiving Poetry Books
Thanksgiving Day at Our House: Thanksgiving Poems for the Very Young by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by R.W. Alley. These are short, lively poems, great for preschoolers.
Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving edited by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton. The cut paper illustrations in this diverse collection of poems about gratitude are stunning. Paterson has curated a wonderful book of poetry from classic, contemporary, religious and multicultural sources. Wonderful!
It’s Thanksgiving! by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marilyn Hafner. Prelutsky’s poems for kids are always a treat. They are funny, snappy and guaranteed to make you smile. They are short enough to enjoy on the go and this collection has the added benefit of the easy reader format so kids can read it independently.
The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Murv Jacob. I really love this collection of verse drawn from over a dozen Native American nations. The poems and songs focus on gratitude and human’s connection with the natural world.
More poetry to love: