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April is National Poetry Month

T.S. Eliot may have thought “April is the cruellest month,” but it’s also National Poetry Month, which makes me thrum with happiness. I could almost (along with Mark Strand) eat poetry. If poetry isn’t already a part of your family’s life, National Poetry Month is an excellent excuse to change that. Their website is full of ideas of things to do (including resources specifically for teachers, librarians, and booksellers), and it contains an excellent database of poets and poems as well. April 14 is Poem in Your Pocket day, and the website has suggestions on how to celebrate. There’s also a calendar of planned events. If you don’t see anything local* (and so far, there’s not), call your local library and/or your children’s school and see if they’re planning to mark the month in any way. Offer to help!

Meanwhile, here are some of our favorite poetry books, pulled from our bookshelves. Poems are best read aloud and thus perfect for story time with your kids. Libraries are full of poetry anthologies, so remember to talk to your librarian, too!

Mother Goose: This was definitely the gateway into poetry for all my children, first from hearing me chant the rhymes and later through books. Anthologies abound. We have My Very First Mother Goose, illustrated by Rosemary Wells, creator of Max and Ruby. I think her sweet pictures are just right for young children.

A. A. Milne: My toddler is following in the footsteps of her brothers at the same age and very much enjoying the poetry of A. A. Milne. Milne has two collections: When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. (He is also the author of the original, and the best, Pooh stories: Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.) I’m not sure why these appeal so much to toddler s and preschoolers, but it’s so nice to cuddle up at bedtime and read some poems together.

Shel Silverstein: Oh, how my boys love Shel Silverstein, and how much fun his poems are to read aloud. He’s deliciously funny. Try Falling Up, A Light in the Attic, and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Karla Kuskin: We have The Sky is Always in the Sky, which is a selection from previously published collections. She’s quirky and fun, and the kids and I now have a hard time saying “butter” without adding “is a word I love to utter.”

A couple of years ago, my middle child received The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, a collection of poems obviously chosen by someone who thinks highly of children. Some complex poems are included, and they are not all “children’s” poetry. He loves the book, and I love reading it out loud to him.

Another anthology we enjoy is Eric Carle’s Dragons, Dragons, a collection of verses about mythological creatures, illustrated with Carle’s collage pictures.

My third grader read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech in school this year. If he hadn’t, I would have handed it to him. It’s not a book of poetry, but rather a book about poetry, and a nice introduction to several poets.

I’ll leave you with a poem by William Carlos Williams called This Is Just To Say (follow the link, as we’re respecting copyright and not reproducing it here). My boys get a kick out of this classic non-apology. Read it aloud to your kids and see if they can relate, too. And happy Poetry Month!!

Local poetry links:

James P. Adams Library (RIC) Poetry page
Poets.org Rhode Island page

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  • Oh kids and poetry! there’s a world that’s going to open up to me over the comnig year with Alice. I like your recommendations. I’m already singing nursery rhymes with her which is absolutely setting in motion that whole words and rhythm thing.

  • Elyse, my kids are drawn to the origami poems every time we go to the local library that has them. (They’re in the adult room, where I force my kids to let me pick out books before we go downstairs so they can!) The books are fun and easy to make, too, and when we’ve made them in the past, my oldest made the connection himself and wrote a poem in his. 🙂

  • Thanks for the reminder! My oldest is really into Where the Sidewalk Ends right now, and we’re going to load our bags with poetry books next month!

  • Yay for poetry month! I just finished embroidering a fragment of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (T.S. Elio) on my jeans. Anyone else have a favorite poem or poet to share?