Book Corner: Poems to Share with Young Children

I love when April rolls around, and we get to celebrate Poetry Month. The rhyming, rhythmic patterns that are often used in poems for young children have great appeal, and I’m always amazed at how the poems for older children with deeper themes can convey such important information and ideas with minimal words. Reading poetry to a child is a wonderful way to show them the beauty of language and reading.

Counting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems, opens a new window by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Priscilla Tey
Sassy Math Poems? Can math really be sassy? Turns out it can! Some of these jaunty poems specifically focus on math components (Do fractions get along?) while others are from a child’s perspective, as they tell funny stories that involve math:

I’m eight and three-quarters
(right to the day),
which means my ninth birthday
is three months away.
That’s twelve complete weeks,
or eighty-four days,
or two thousand sixteen hours away!

Hello, Earth!, opens a new window by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Miren Asiain Lora
On every page is a short poem addressed to planet Earth from a child’s perspective. Some ask questions:

What is it like
to feel
the cool sweep
of the moon?

Some convey awe:

even in blasted sand,
even in dry bones,
you sparkle with life.

All the poems are reverent in that unique way that children have. The muted palette and soft lines of the illustrations match the dreamy, wonder-filled poems. Backmatter in the last pages give factual information related to the themes of each poem and answers the questions that are posed throughout.

Hoop Kings 2, opens a new window by Charles R. Smith, Jr.
The verve, passion, strength, and movement that Smith conveys with his poems about NBA players will get your heart thumping nearly as fast as watching these remarkable men play. Capturing each player’s unique style and strengths, Smith includes short, snappy poems about twelve players including Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, and Steph Curry.

Kiyoshi's Walk, opens a new window by Mark Karlins, illustrated by Nicole Wong
A boy asks his poet grandfather where poems come from. As they walk together, the grandfather composes a poem while helping the boy come to realize that poems come from what they see, hear, feel, and imagine. Poems come from what is outside of them and what is inside of them: “In everything there was a poem.”

Super Small, opens a new window by Tiffany Stone, illustrated by Ashley Spires
Each page of this picture book has a poem as well as factual information about fifteen small creatures children may or may not have heard of. The cartoon-style illustrations perfectly match the short, funny poems.

Ten Little Squirrels, opens a new window by Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Nathalie Beauvois
The bouncy rhyming, limited words per page, and bold illustrations in this book are perfect for babies and toddlers, and the unique response of each squirrel will be fun for adults to read out loud. Children can anticipate what may happen with each turn of the page, and, for older children and adult readers, there are interesting “Squirrel Facts” on the last page.

Where I Live, opens a new window selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Poems by various writers celebrate the wonderful things that define home: the place, the people, the weather, the trees, the plants, and animals. Apartment building rooftops, front porches, tire swings, sidewalk cracks, snowplows, and schools. This is an uplifting collection about the many pieces that fit together to make up where a child lives and how all of those pieces contribute to their experiences and how they think of home.

Darcie Caswell is the Youth Services Coordinator at CRRL. This column originally appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper.