Poetry for Kids
Poetry for kids is all about rhythm. It's music without the notes. Poetry helps people – including children – get in touch with their feelings.
Like most adults, I was introduced to poetry in the form of nursery rhymes as a young child. And like most children, I took poetry for granted. Some poems were fun to read or listen to, but it wasn’t long before I graduated from Mother Goose to fairy tales and chapter books. I still enjoyed limericks and other funny poems, but was never really passionate about it.
Until 1996, when I took a class in children’s literature. The chapter on poetry for kids woke me up to the power that this medium has in the life of a child. If a child becomes passionate about poetry, it can enrich his or her life in many ways.
Rumer Godden, a British author who wrote over 20 books for children between 1947 and 1996, once said that giving a child a love of poetry is the same as giving that child the ability to enjoy life.
Favorite Types of Poetry for Kids
Studies have shown that kids enjoy humorous and nonsensical poems, including limericks. They also enjoy alliteration and onomatopoeia. That’s why tongue-twisters and knock-knock jokes are so popular.
Rhythm, rhyme, repetition, imagery and shape are all elements of favorite poems. Lullabies are classic examples of this.
Metaphors and similes – words that compare things very different from each other – are often used to help create images that can open up new ways of thinking in children. Judith Thurman’s poem “Spill” compares a flock of birds to loose change.
the wind scatters
a flock of sparrows –
a handful of small change
from the cloud’s pocket
– Judith Thurman
Flashlight and Other Poems
Shape plays a part in poetry when words are divided, lines spread out, and letters enlarged or reduced to create visual effects. A good example of this is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, sometimes known as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, where a mouse’s “tale” takes the shape of a mouse’s “tail” due to fancy typography (Chapter 3 – “A Caucus Race and a Long Tale”).
Get Kids Involved with Poetry
The easiest way to start involving children with poetry is to read it to them. If a child isn’t interested in the first poem you read to him or her, try another one. Don’t just give up.
One of the most popular books of poetry for kids is Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, says teachers and librarians report that this book is stolen from libraries more often than any others.
The next step in getting kids involved with poetry is to teach them how to WRITE it. And the best way to do that is to work with them throughout the writing process. Listed below are some suggested steps for teaching the writing of poetry:
- Find inspiration through everyday activities or new experiences.
- Brainstorm ideas with others.
- Write out the poem, revising if necessary with the help of a teacher or peer group.
- Share the poem with a group.
- Expand the poem into a choral reading, drama, or other art form.
A great online resource for aspiring poets (and those who teach them) is Poetry 4 Kids, described as “Ken Nesbitt’s Poetry Playground.” Ken Nesbitt has been writing funny poems for kids since 1994, when he published his first poem, “Scrawny Tawny Skinner.” Four years later, he published his first book of poetry, My Foot Fell Asleep.
Poetry Books for Kids
Following is a list of some poets who rank high on the list of popularity with children, along with the titles of some of their books:
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