As a poet and literacy teacher, I am always on the lookout for great books of poetry as well as poetically written stories that encourage kids to explore and play with language. Poetry is the perfect way to teach phonological awareness, and wordplay is beneficial for all students, but especially those who are diagnosed with language learning disorders.
Check out these resources at your local library or bookstore for use at home or in the classroom! All of these books have been selected for their wonderful poetry and visual art.
Most can be used for teaching broad language skills such as phonological awareness and phonics. I’ve included target grade levels for each.
Great Poetry Books for Kids (Young & Old!)
I have used this book of poetry for years in my teaching. It’s a delightful collection of all kinds of poems (including some great concrete & personification poems) organized by theme. Meilo So’s watercolor illustrations are a wonderful accompaniment. This is a must-have for any bookshelf at home or school! Grades 2-12
A gorgeous book of onomatopoeic words that appear alongside wintry scenes that convey the light and wonder and expansiveness of winter. K-12
Humorous poems for kids who live in the city by renowned poet X.J. Kennedy. My fourth and fifth graders got a kick out of many of these poems, especially the ones about school. 3-6
Wonderful rhymes with a sports theme from Jack Prelutsky. Humor and hijinks meet on and off the field. A great way to get the sports lover involved (and maybe in love!) with poetry! 2-6
Excerpts from poems and shorter poems that can be copied on a piece of paper for handwriting practice and placed in your pocket. Organized by theme. 2-8
A children’s book about renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who wrote many gorgeous poems, and a few funny ones, like his Ode to My Socks! 3-8
I love this book for its art and simple rhymes that reinforce long vowel patterns. K-5
Lions and tigers and similes, oh my! What a fantastic book for learning about similes! The art is wonderful too–what you can do with the shape of a heart! K-3
A fabulous book full of similes and alliteration. Perfect for teaching long vowel teams & rhyme. K-5
This book of haiku is a modern-day compilation of 19th-century Japanese poet Issa Kobayashi’s work that teaches about the cycle of life. Each poem is accompanied by lovely illustrations that show the year in the life of one family.
There is a reason why poet Joyce Sidman’s book won so many awards, notably the 2010 Caldecott Medal. Each color is personified and does sing from page to page through word and image. Pamela Zagarensky’s illustrations are whimsical and perfect for each poem. This is a must-read for teachers of poetry, a model of what great poetry for youth can be.
Not a poetry book, but a fun romp of rhyme and mischief with a little mouse who makes a big mess in someone else’s house! My student and I turned the lines in this story into a rap. It has great rhythm and rhyme! Perfect for repeated readings to build fluency. K-3
This book is an onomatopoeic pull down the tracks with the rhythm of a train moving clackety-clack! Consonant blends, inflected and derivation endings, rhyme–this book has it all for the student working on broad language skills. K-3+
A simple story perfect for spring puddle stomping! Lots of repetition to practice simple short vowel phonograms like -at, -ip and -op, consonsant blends and rhyme. K-3
We lost a great poet last month. Adrienne Rich has been a constant source of inspiration and challenge to me as a writer for almost two decades. Her poems I turn to time and again, finding there a way to comprehend the world and myself anew.
While I wrestle sometimes with the feeling of poetry’s futility in our complex world, it takes such a reminder–loss–to remember the potential of a poem, the difference a person and her art can make.
What Kind of Times Are These
By Adrienne Rich
There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.
I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.
I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.
“What Kind of Times Are These”. © 2002, 1995 by Adrienne Rich, from The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 by Adrienne Rich.Used by permission of the author and W.W. Norton, Inc.Source: Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995(W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1995)
Thank you, Adrienne, and all women and men who share their visions and make art possible.