The importance of reading to our children is a truth that we are all deeply aware of. The benefits are researched, proven and documented in abundance. Integrating books of poetry books for children into the lineup can be not just beneficial, but greatly enjoyable.
There is no shortage of research boasting claims of the power of poetry to work inside the minds of our children. Even the smallest of babies can benefit from poetry, defined as a work of literature which focuses on expressions of feelings or ideas, often using metaphors, by using distinctive rhythms and styles. The use of expressive poetry is extremely beneficial to the emotional development of children. When children are taught to empathize and visualize the emotions of others, they are better able to recognize and work through their own emotions. Poetry can also help shape a creative mind, due to the use of metaphors instead of a more literal description of ideas or feelings.
The importance of reading to our children cannot be under emphasized. So, if you are going to be reading to your children anyways, why not be sure to include poetry, which encourages a completely different kind of thinking and growth? If you are unsure where, to begin with adding poetry in your home, here is a list of some of the best poetry books for kids that are currently available.
For my ranking purposes, I leaned on the compilations of others as well as ratings and descriptions of owners of the suggested books. I also looked for bright and engaging illustrations, and books that are easily, and affordably available for purchase.
20. A Bad Case of the Giggles: Poems That Will Make You Laugh Out Loud
This book is a collection of the funniest poems for children. The pictures are often just as funny as the poems! What better way to encourage your children to read or be read to than to engage their sense of humor. This book by Bruce Lansky is designed to engage readers in grades 2 through 5.
19. A Poke in the I
A Poke in the I is a collection of concrete poetry, also known as visual poetry. In concrete poetry, more emphasis is placed on the visual effect of words. See how the placement and size of letters and text convey meaning, sometimes better than written word can. Kids love visual poetry, not only because of the plethora of pictures but because of the surprising ways we can use words to convey meaning. This book encourages children to stretch their minds past more typical poem structure and translation. Older toddlers and elementary children will delight in this playful book by author Paul B. Janeczko and illustrator Chris Raschka.
18. The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry
Another collection, this book has a wide variety of poems. Some are serious, some are silly, all are loved by children. Another thing that makes this book fun to read is that the illustrations have been done by several different artists. Every one of the almost 200 poems are a delight to read and look at. This book is a must for those who want to integrate not only classical children’s poetry, but also want to introduce the works of newer poets into their children’s library. Perfect for children in 2nd through 5th grade.
17. I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus
If you are looking for a poetry book that will not only make your child giggle but also introduce “big” words creatively placed to help encourage vocabulary growth, this witty book by Jack Prelutsky is the perfect match. This book contains 100 poems about animals. Some are real, some a work of intensely creative imagination. The illustrations are marvelous, and perfectly capture some of the most zany creatures. Included in the book is a pronunciation guide, so no need to fear that you aren’t pronouncing “The Pelicantaloupes” correctly. While the age range is intended for older elementary children, parents who reviewed the book expressed delight that their children of varying age range equally enjoyed this book.
16. Your Moon, My Moon
It is often hard for children to understand why they are sometimes separated from loved ones, especially grandparents. This heartwarming poem follows the story of a young child living in Africa, who is separated from his Grandmother by a great distance. Instead of letting cultural and day to day differences push them apart, they search for things that are the same in each of their worlds. An exercise that brings them together until the end of the story, when they are reunited by a visit from Grandmother. Beautiful illustrations depict the cultural differences in the lives of the characters. So in addition to being a great book, it also encourages the learning of cultural diversity. Recommended for ages preschool to grade 3.
15. Once I Laughed My Socks Off
Delightfully funny poems that appeal to children while also entertaining parents! Not your typical one-page poems, these creative stories last several pages, with words so vibrant that you have no trouble imagining what it would look like to have your socks running down the road, or dancing around your home. While funny, they also help teach life lessons, like why we don’t snack at midnight, and how it’s helpful to pick up after ourselves. If you have a reluctant reader, this book will help encourage your child to give reading, and poetry, a chance. At only 26 pages, it won’t intimidate, while bright and funny pictures will help to draw them in. Intended for children in second to 5th grade.
14. After All, I’m Just A Ball
Do you have a child who loves sports? Then they will love these riddle poems. Sports equipment come alive to provide your child with clues about who he is. Children 4 years and older will love the challenge of determining which character is being represented after the mystery character finishes talking.
13. It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles
A master of puns and wordplay, this zany story by Jack Prelutsky is sure to bring smiles, and requests to read it again! Nonsense rhymes, paired with clever illustrations by James Stevenson are sure to delight, tickle, and sometimes even gross out little readers. Children ages Kindergarten to Grade 5 are sure to find this book right up their alley.
12. All The Wild Wonders
Anthologist Wendy Cooling has compiled this collection of poems from poems by poets around the world. Designed to encourage children to think critically about issues facing the environment, and our role as caretakers of the earth. Encouraging kids to address these big issues from an early age can help us to raise a generation that is ready to make a difference in how we deal with issues like trash disposal, deforestation, and creating a brighter tomorrow. Folk art style illustrations will grab your child’s attention and give a deeper meaning to the messages contained in the poetry.
11. Falling For Rapunzel
A fresh, and silly twist to the classic story of Rapunzel, this version is sure to have fans of the story cackling with laughter. When the price finds Rapunzel and interprets her tears as distress, he knows he would do anything to save her. He repeatedly tries to have her throw something out of the tower that will help him rescue her, but she is too high up to understand him and keeps making silly mistakes. Such as, when asked for her hair, she sends her underwear! Eventually, the mistakenly thrown object is Rapunzel’s maid. This turns out to be a pleasant mistake, however, as the prince and the maid fall deeply in love and ride off into the sunset together. Illustrations add to the silliness with over exaggerated expressions, sure to delight children kindergarten to grade 5.
10. The Giving Tree
It is hard to go wrong with a book by Shel Silverstein, and his poem entitled “The Giving Tree” is no exception. A sometimes sad, always touching story of a tree who loved a boy. So much, that she gave the boy all she had, even when he was unable to offer anything in return. A tale of selfless love and giving, it is a parable of how important it is to love others with all we have, not taking into consideration their ability to return or acknowledge it. This book is intended for children aged 1 to 8.
9. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
How do dinosaurs say goodnight? Are they ornery and bad? Or do they quietly listen to their mommy and daddy. Take a peek into ten dinosaur families and their bedtime routines. Kids will recognize commonly used antics to postpone bedtimes and get a chuckle out of seeing huge dinosaurs trying to fit into small beds. Proper dinosaur names are used, which helps children learn while being entertained. While bed time antics such as asking for “just one more book” are meant to be discouraged, your children preschool to 3rd grade are going to request this story over and over.
8. The Cat In The Hat
In 1957, Dr. Suess decided to write The Cat In The Hat as a solution to the assertion that common literacy stories of the day were too boring, and did not encourage literacy. What if there was an early reader that children enjoyed, one that made them want to read more? Dr. Suess achieved this book with this story about two bored children, and the cat who disrupts their life, almost landing them in huge trouble with their mother! Feel the frustration and panic of the children as the cat plays dangerous games with their household belongings, and then in an attempt to help makes things even worse by unleashing his wild friends. Never fear, however, just in the nick of time the cat is able to rectify his naughty behavior and get the house back in order before mother arrives back home from her errands. A classic book that is sure to continue to inspire the youngest of children through those in second grade to develop a love for reading.
7. Where the Sidewalk Ends
This classic collection of poems and illustrations by Shel Silverstein has been a family favorite for over 40 years, a trend that will likely continue for another 40. Sometimes laugh out loud funny, sometimes contemplative, the outstanding rhythm of Shel’s poetry makes this collection a treasure to read aloud. Read about a sister, who would love nothing more than to auction off her sister. Discover why unicorns didn’t make it onto Noah’s Ark. Take a ride in a flying shoe with a trio of brothers. Most importantly, introduce your 1st through 3rd graders to a book that they will someday read to their children.
6. Rainy Day Poems
Children 4 years of age and older are sure to turn to this fantastically illustrated collection of poems on rainy days and even sunny ones. The illustrations are exceptionally well done, and help young readers understand the emotions being conveyed in the stories. The poems cover a broad range of emotions, some are funny, some make you think, and others teach life lessons. James McDonald is both author and artist, and with this work, he is sure to win life long lovers of his work.
5. The Complete Poems of Winnie-The-Pooh
Another collection that has passed the test of generational reading, A.A. Milne’s two poetry collections “When We Were Very Young,” and, “Now We Are Six” are paired together in this edition. Children as young as 3 and as old as 8 will be delighted to be introduced to everyone’s favorite bear and his friend Christopher Robin. Reviewers of this book often state their surprise at how many of the poems contained in this work were already familiar to them; they had previously not realized how profound of an impact these poems have had on their life. Surely a collection that will not be hard to read again and again.
4. The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems
This 100 poem collection of poems by Mary Ann Hoberman covers a multitude of subjects, all sure to be loved by your kindergarten through 4th grader. Subjects range from all kinds of animals, family life, and subjects that will make your child think. This book will satisfy poetry readers of all skill levels, from those who are just beginning to those who are well versed.
3. Giraffes Can’t Dance
Come along with Gerald, the giraffe. A giraffe who just wants to dance! Feeling discouraged when he is unable to dance like the other animals and ready to give up on his dreams, he makes an unlikely friend who teaches him to embrace his differences and find the tune that is his. A heartwarming tale that is encouraging positive self-esteem. A great, rhyming story that encourages preschoolers to 3rd graders to never give up on their dreams.
2. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a fast paced, rollicking poem that makes learning the alphabet fun! Follow the alphabet as the letters try to answer the question, will there be enough room at the top of the coconut tree? Each letter takes it’s turn climbing the ever burdened coconut tree until eventually they have an answer. Yes, there is enough room, but the coconut tree cannot handle their weight and boom boom, they all fall out of the coconut tree. Children aged preschool and up will enjoy this bright and cheerful poem.
1. On The Night You Were Born
If the illustrations alone aren’t enough to win you over, the whimsical poem will endear this book to you for all time. Gorgeous illustrations follow the story of the news of a brand new baby travels across the world. Stars sing, and polar bears dance to express their joy because never before has a baby been born quite like this one. While it is the parents and the grandparents, who will most appreciate the sentiment, children from 1 to 4 years old will surely appreciate the beauty found in this book.