Book Corner: Celebrating National Poetry Month

April is Poetry Month, a wonderful time to focus on poetry written specifically for children. These poems are perfect for even very young children: they are usually short, often rhyming, and introduce unique vocabulary. Because poems for children tend to be short, they don’t get bored and lose interest. Rhyming helps children understand word patterns. Writing in verse requires the poet to be very careful about their word choice, often choosing one word to take the place of several, which can introduce the reader to new vocabulary. All of these factors are key for children developing early literacy skills.

At the Poles, opens a new window by David Elliott, illustrated by Ellen Rooney
Short, snappy, rhyming poems about creatures found at the North and South poles. Well-known animals are represented, such as orca, penguin, and caribou, and there are also poems about lesser known animals, such as krill and tardigrade. These short poems pack in some stellar vocabulary. In “Orca,” Elliott rhymes echolocation with predation when describing this huge mammal's skills.

An Earth Song, opens a new window by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Tequitia Andrews
A perfect fit for the season, this very short poem celebrates a song of the earth, “a spring song,” with “shoots of a new plant” and “new buds.”  With its brevity and child-friendly vocabulary, this poem is perfect for young ones to hear, learn, and recite. The bold, colorful illustrations mirror this poem’s appeal to children, who can identify and follow how the simple illustrations of colorful birds, bees, butterflies, and flowers align with the words of the poem. 

The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry, opens a new window by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by Sara Brezzi
Award-winning poet Ghigna brings together 101 of his children’s poems, from serious to funny, lengthy to short. The collection starts with a chapter on “Home” with poems reflecting on experiences such as playing in a tree house, having a secret hiding place, and paying attention to the special view from the front porch. The remainder of the chapters center on nature, with each chapter focusing on a season. Ghigna’s poetry is beautiful and engaging for children, as in this succinct poem, “Honeybee”:

I wonder
If she knows
Her nose
Chose a rose.

There are so many options for children and their grown-ups to choose from in this poetry collection, it would be fun to read through with a child or group of children and have them pick their favorite.

How to Write A Poem, opens a new window by Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Award-winning poet Alexander and award-winning artist Sweet team with poet Nikaido to present an inspiring message to children about listening to the world around them, then using their imaginations to capture words and “let them dance with your joy.”  The words of the poem and the bold, jubilant illustrations work together to convey a powerful and positive message about being creative and sharing your voice.

Push-Pull Morning: Dog-Powered Poems About Matter and Energy, opens a new window by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Serge Bloch
Reading about matter and physics seems like it could be a dry read for children. But presented in jaunty poems focused on a dog and her boy?  That is fun!  “Phase-Crazy Dog” focuses on phases of matter (the dog is like a liquid when she pours herself into her basket); “Remembering Friction” humorously conveys the concept of friction by explaining that when it’s bathtime for a reluctant pup, “Carpet + Claws = Friction.”  Detailed backmatter explains these scientific principles in more depth for those who are interested.

Watch Me Bloom, opens a new window by Krina Patel-Sage
From snowdrop to poinsettia, twenty-four haiku poems each focus on a single flower. The brevity of haiku poems makes them a natural fit for children’s short attention spans, as do the child-friendly word choices. Children will easily be able to connect with the description of “pink flower clouds” of cherry blossoms and the “beaming orange suns” of marigolds. While the poems focus on the flowers themselves, illustrations on each page show different groups of family and friends enjoying the flowers while celebrating holidays, playing outside, or simply spending time together.

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