April is National Poetry Month and even though it’s close to the end, there’s always time for poetry. In the text for my children’s information services class, Vardell mentions that for many people, poets end after Silverstein and Prelutsky. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because a good foundation means you have something to build on.
There is a lot of really great poetry out there for kids today. Just like anything else in children’s literature it pays to find out what the interests are of the child you’re working with.
Do they like humor stories like Captain Underpants? Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky are obvious (and still good) choices, but have you read the hilarious poetry available at Giggle Poetry? It’s separated into sections, like tall tales or silly rhymes and is easy to navigate.
How about animals? A common interest for children, animals appear a lot in poetry compilations, like the 2011 ALA Notable In the Wild by David Elliott, which uses beautiful woodcuts to show off the animals and compliment the poems. Along the animal/humorous line is A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems by Deborah Ruddell. My favorite is the one about the turkey complaining about its portrait done using a child’s hand.
Even classic poetry can be reused for children. My favorite recent example of this is My People. The poem is by Langston Hughes and it is made new again by Charles R. Smith, Jr.’s photography that illustrates the words of the poem and makes it perfect for children. My People was the 2010 Illustrator Coretta Scott King Award winner.
Other areas of interest to find poetry are:
- Monsters in… The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide by Linda Ashman
- Dance in… Song and Dance by Lee Bennett Hopkins
- Sports in… Change-Up: Baseball Poems by Gene Fehler or The Fastest Game on Two Feet: And Other Poems About How Sports Began by Alice Low
- Nature in… Don’t Step on The Sky: A Handful of Haiku by Miriam Chaikin
Experiment with different types of poetry: limericks, sijo, haiku, ballads, refrain, free verse. Combining interest with rhyme is an easy way to expand the world of a child. Poetry can be fun and interesting if there doesn’t have to be a right answer. All you have to do is read it aloud. Try this Silverstein poem and see if it doesn’t put a smile on your face or the face of a child. It’s one of my favorites and I remembered that recently as it is posted on my internship site supervisor’s desk.
A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.
A street house, a neat house,
Be sure and wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all–
Let’s go live in a tree house.
Have a good rest of poetry month! Read it aloud. You’ll be surprised at how much fun poetry can be.
Silverstein, S. (1974). Where the sidewalk ends: The poems & drawings of Shel Silverstein. New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Vardell, S. M. (2008). Children’s literature in action: A librarian’s guide. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.