Celebrate National Poetry Month!
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Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Poetry scares me.
How about you?
While most small children love the rhyme and rhythm of childhood poems, as students get older and begin to read different types of poetry, many can lose their enthusiasm for this genre of writing. And if you ever felt intimidated by poetry as a young learner, chances are you won’t feel equipped to help your child overcome those same fears today. However, poetry is not only a wonderful way to practice reading and inspire writing – it can be a powerful form of expression that connects kids to a wealth of fun and feeling.
You can help celebrate this wonderful event at home with your family this April, during National Poetry Month! National Poetry Month was born in 1996 as a way for learners of all ages to appreciate the beauty of poetry in this beautiful spring month. With National Poetry Month comes a great opportunity for kids to learn about reading and writing poetry.
Poetry can be one of the most accessible forms of writing for young children. But before they can write their own poetry, children must gain an understanding and appreciation of it by reading a variety of poets. Here are a few books that will get your child excited about poetry:
- A Light in the Attic By Shel Silverstein
Children love Shel Silverstein. He is silly, fun and easy for children to emulate. All of Shel Silverstein’s poetry books are a must-have for any child’s library.
- What a Day it Was at School By Jack Prelutsky
Kids can relate to the school-themed poems in this collection. Though they might express contrary opinions about the subjects, kids love reading poems about homework, field trips and other school events.
- If I Were in Charge of the World By Judith Viorst
The title poem in this collection is one that many kids can relate to. Pose the question “If you were in charge of the world, what would you do?” to any child and watch as the creativity pours forth!
- Shout: Little Poems That Roar by Brod Bagert.
These poems are perfect to read aloud. The poems rhyme and are short enough for a quick read. Kids will find poems like “Our Classroom Zoo” laugh-out-loud funny! Plus, this book has great illustrations to accompany poems.
"The best way to foster a love of poetry in children is to expose them to poems that are fun, energetic, and wild!” advises poet and poetry teacher Violeta Garcia-Mendoza. “Try a lively rendition of Edward Lear's ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ or Lewis Carroll's ‘Jabberwocky’ at storytime. If your child is a reader, try reading Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices together. Check the beautifully-illustrated A Family of Poems (edited by Caroline Kennedy) out from the library and have your kids try drawing a picture inspired by a poem or write a poem inspired by a picture."
After reading a lot of poetry, children are often inspired to write their own poems. When children read a variety of poems, they are able to realize that poetry comes in many forms and does not always have to rhyme (a common misconception). Young children often feel free to take risks in poetry because it does not require proper punctuation or complete sentences. In free verse, children are free to write words however they’d like. Here are some tips to help your child explore poetry writing:
- Have your child pick a favorite poem and use that poem as inspiration to write a poem in a similar style. For example, after reading Viorst’s “If I Were in Charge of the World” poem have your child write his own poem about what would happen if he was in charge of the world. Or have your child read Jack Prelutsky’s poems about school as inspiration for his own poems about school. Poets learn from other poets—encourage your child to do so as well!
- Encourage your child to write a shape poem. If your child is writing about a rollercoaster, encourage her to write the poem in the shape of a rollercoaster, having words go up and down and curl around the page. Kids enjoy weaving poetry and art together through shape poems.
- Introduce your child to similes and metaphors. Children easily understand these literary devices and will use them to write beautifully descriptive poems.
Other ways to celebrate Poetry Month as a family:
- Memorize a poem together
- Put poems in unusual places in your house. A poem about dirty clothes in the laundry room, a bird poem by the window.
- Read a short poem at the dinner table each night.
- Go on a walk and carry notebooks to jot down some poems or phrases on
- Put on a “poetry slam.” Invite other kids or adults over to read poems aloud. Celebrate your child’s hard work and new knowledge about poetry!
Favorite Poets for younger children:
- Shel Silverstein
- Jack Prelutsky
- Jane Yolen
- Douglas Florian
For tweens and teens:
- Check out a fun poem a day for high school students.
- Play hangman with poetry terms.
- Two good books for tweens and teens: I Just Hope It’s Lethal: Poems of Sadness, Madness, and Joy and Sister Slam and the Poetic Motormouth Roadtrip by Linda Oatman High.
T. S. Eliot wrote, "April is the cruelest month." Maybe National Poetry Month can help change that!
To get more information about National Poetry month and Poem in Your Pocket Day, visit Poets.org.