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April is National Poetry Month

By Katy Killilea

April is National Poetry month, and kids are natural poets. They’ve got that unselfconscious rhythm, love to rhyme, and they get passionate pleasure from alliteration. While they’re pounding out the beats all year long, we can celebrate poetry month with special activities that people of many ages can get into.

scranimals1. Hinky Pinkys: also known as Hink Pinks or Hinkety Pinketys. You give a clue, leading to a solution that is a two-word rhyme, each word having the same number of syllables as whatever you’re calling the game (eg in Hink Pinks, each word would have one syllable). In Hink Pinks, a squashed feline is a flat cat. In Hinky Pinkys, if our dog makes a disgruntled sound, that’s a Butter mutter. Great examples, written by kids, can be found here.

2. Tongue Twisters: Remember trying to say these ten times, fast? So..how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? If your family is very refined, don’t use this one: One smart fellow, he felt smart. Here’s one for Rhode Islanders: Clean clams crammed in clean cans. And for the very advanced: A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk. No one can do that one–it’s impossible to even read it silently without getting all discombobulated.chickenbook

3. Jack Prelutsky: we have read our Jack Prelutsky books so often that even their duck tape repairs are falling off. His poems are filled with fun language, twists, and kooky people with peanut hats (Peanut Peg and Peanut Pete in The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders) and creatures that are part broccoli, part lion (the broccolions, as seen in Scranimals). Less creepy than Shel Silverstein, and with no chance of falling into a lifelong guilt trip (I remain–probably deservedly so–shamed by The Giving Tree), Jack Prelutsky’s work is smart, delightful to read out loud, and illustrated by many different artists so each book has its own feel.

4. A new book: Chicken Scratches will be released this April and has so many absurd and silly chicken-related poems–more than one of which will make you rethink that omelet or drumstick–that when you get to then end you’ll think, “Did we just read an entire book of chicken poems?” The illustrations will crack you up (look, a pun!), whether it’s the utterly blase chicken trick-or-treater in the melted ice cream cone costume or the elegant ballerina chicken who lays an egg in her tights. (Chicken Scratches, April 2010 by Chronicle Books, $15.)

Does your family have favorite poems, tongue twisters, or ways to celebrate poetry month?

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