Children’s book blog: Children’s poetry for the non-poetry-lover-parent

by susan on April 6, 2012

This is the latest in an occasional series by Beth Melo, a Southborough mom who loves to read to her kids. In this installment, Beth shares her favorite poetry for children in honor of National Poetry Month. This post was originally published on the Southborough Library website, and has been reposted here with permission. For more of Beth’s book recommendations, click here.

I have a shameful confession to make: I don’t love poetry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I hate it. I appreciate some of it. (I even wrote some back in the day, published in Sachem, Algonquin’s literary magazine.) I just never LOVED it. And much of it bores me. (I’m actually guilty of hiding an old, archaic Mother Goose book we had so I wouldn’t have to read from it anymore. Bad Mommy!)

This makes it hard for me to teach poetry appreciation to my children. But I want to try. So, I set about to find poems that my children and I could enjoy together. And now, in honor of poetry month in April, I will share my best finds with you.

  • My favorite for young children is Here’s A Little Poem , edited by Jane Yolen. This is the only children’s poetry collection that I really loved. It has a wonderful mix of cute, funny, sweet, and sensory poems to share with little ones.
  • My second favorite poetry collection is Out and About by Shirley Hughes. A young girl (with baby brother) experiences the elements through all four seasons. She teaches children to enjoy nature as she exults in mud, water, sand, and wind.

Good for the very young:

  • I’m a fan of Margaret Wise Brown books. Her poetry collection Under the Sun and the Moon, illustrated by Tom Leonard is perfect for that age.
  • Busy in the Garden by George Shannon is also a sweet collection for the very young.
  • I’m a fan of the original Winnie the Pooh books. As such, I want to like the A.A. Milne collections more than I actually do as a whole. But there are quite a few cute/sweet ones among them, especially in Now We are Six. I prefer the Christopher Robin poems such as “Binker”, “Us Two”, and “Forgiven”, to the poems about knights and such.

Good for preschool and older:

  • My children enjoyed the poems about forests and animals in A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk .
  • Curious Critters by David FitzSimmons is a visually engaging book of poetry written by a photographer. His beautiful photographs held my children’s attention to the related poems about each creature. I did also enjoy the poetry in its own right as he gave a unique voice to each animal.
  • Edward Lear’s The Duck and the Kangaroo. I’m probably a heretic for saying that I don’t love all of his poetry. I feel like I’m missing something when reading most of it (perhaps a silly gene). But I really get a kick out of this particular poem of his and it can be found as its own book. We enjoyed the version illustrated by Jane Wattenberg.
  • Dinothesaurus by Douglas Florian was a big hit with my son.
  • My six year old daughter loved Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy Poet Extraordinaire! This isn’t a poetry book per se. It’s a story about a girl with a passion for poetry who shares her favorite poems and some written by her friends and herself. Her enthusiasm is contagious. (This book isn’t in the Southborough Library collection but can be requested through interlibrary loan.)

Special Mention:

  • Not technically poetry, my children love Alan Katz’ zany song books. He takes popular well known tunes (like “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”) and turn them on their heads with poems that will make most preschoolers and young school kids laugh. My children love I’m Still Here in the Bathtub and Too Much Kissing. (Months after reading the first, my kids surprised me by gleefully reciting the final verse of the title song when I went to pull them from the tub the other night.) The challenge for me is trying to capture the original tune in my head to read some of these. But even if you can’t get the tune right, I’m sure your kids will appreciate the humor.

I wish you have luck finding poetry that you enjoy with your children. As always, if you have any questions for me, feel free to e-mail becmelo@yahoo.com. If you have any suggestions for other parents, you can post a comment below.

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