Each April, we celebrate National Poetry Month— the perfect time to explore the fun and benefits of poetry with children. Kids are naturally inclined to embrace the bouncy rhythms and repetitive sounds found in poems of all kinds, which speaks to the timeless appeal of nursery rhymes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “The Cow Jumped Over the Moon.” By playing with the smallest sounds in words, poetry helps little learners develop phonological awareness, one of the six foundational skills needed for early reading. Poems also pique literary interest in older kids with fun vocabulary, silly humor, and vivid imagery.
The Library offers dozens of picture books that pair the lively language of poetry with engaging illustrations. Stop in to any location to sample the smorgasbord of rhymes and verse, and check out one of these excellent titles to share the magic of poetry with kids.
Little Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver
This collection of bite-size poems for babies (and their grown-ups) is accompanied by illustrations from the great Tomie dePaola. Playful pieces like “In My Stroller” and “My Daddy’s Beard” explore the wonders of babyhood with simple language to learn and recite throughout the day. My favorite is “The Kitchen Drawer,” which celebrates a familiar past time of crawlers:
“Watch me scoot across the floor./ I’m heading for the kitchen drawer/ To knock the pots and pans around/ And throw the dish towels on the ground.”
Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown
This treasure trove of poems was recently unearthed from the estate of Margaret Wise Brown, author of beloved stories like Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. Brown’s cozy, lilting lullabies are paired up with gorgeous artwork by a roster of world class illustrators to create a patchwork of whimsical worlds. The book even includes an audio CD so you can hear the lovely language with musical accompaniment.
Poem Runs by Douglas Florian
As baseball fever takes hold, Poem Runs is the perfect picture book to share with sports lovers. With paintings in grassy greens and dusty yellows, Douglas Florian’s poems explore the game, player by player, with rhymes like “Catcher:”
“I can catch curve balls/ I can catch heat./ I can catch sliders/ With gloves or with feet./ I block with my belly./ I nab with my knees./ Throw me jars of jelly./ I’ll grab them with ease.”
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko
With selections from masters like William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson, Firefly July celebrates spring, summer, autumn, and winter through poetic morsels and bright artwork by Melissa Sweet. The familiar imagery will appeal to all children, making this an excellent and accessible introduction to the classics.
-Maggie, Youth Services Librarian, CLP- Carrick