Poetry for Children
There’s something so magical and intriguing about the musical quality of poetry. When we read a poem out loud that rhymes we notice that our voice has a rhythmic or melodic cadence to it. It’s no wonder that children of preschool age love poetry!
Poetry for children is important mainly because of the rhyming and repetitive aspect of it. In my previous post, The Essential Guide To 11 Fun Oral Language Development Activities, the beginning activities in the first lesson include poetry and rhyming.
Poetry and rhyming jumped out at me as the most important and fun of the activities of the first lesson. I thought of all the times I read poetry to the three-to six-year-old children in my Montessori classroom, and to my daughter, Annie, at home.
Last month during the holiday season, Annie loved ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, and she wanted me to read it every night. She kept reaching for it, and I know she loved it because of the rhyming!
Children seem to come alive with enthusiasm and engagement when poetry is read to them. They often smile and laugh and even memorize and recite some of the lines easily. Why is that? And what are some good poems and poetry books for children?
In this post, I’ll share with you a list of 8 poetry for children books I’ve used when I was a teacher, and as a mom of a three-year-old.
In This Post
Why is poetry for preschool aged children important?
Memorizing, reciting, and brain power
Did you ever notice that it’s easy to remember the words to catchy songs, especially if it rhymes? And have you noticed that young children seem to quickly remember the words to kids songs, finger plays and nursery rhymes?
Poetry’s musical and rhythmic quality stops us and makes us interested. Once we start listening to a poem, we feel like we must continue listening to it. The words that rhyme just naturally fit together; we seem to just know what word comes next!
This makes poetry easy to memorize and recite. My daughter, Annie, loves Dr. Seuss books and has memorized Green Eggs and Ham. She loves when I read it over and over again and when I hand her the book, she can recite almost the whole book while flipping through the pages.
This memorizing and reciting; knowing what words come next, helps with early literacy development. The musical quality of poems also helps children to recognize patterns, which can help prepare for logical thinking as well as math.
Poetry also helps children with increasing their vocabulary. Children of preschool age are bound to hear and say brand new words found in poetry.
They are are also more likely to remember the words and be interested in them, because of the rhythmic and rhyming patterns of the poetry.
Learning about different perspectives and feelings
There are all types of poetry for children written by different people from different cultures. Listening to different poems can help children learn about different types of people, likes, dislikes, as well as different feelings and emotions.
Sometimes we don’t know why a certain poem appeals to a particular child or group. But the musical and rhythmic nature of poetry seems to call to young children on an intuitive level.
Preparation for writing and reading
Young children pay attention to the words, sounds, and syllables while listening to poetry.
Poetry is a great way for preschool aged children to practice phonological awareness, or the ability to notice and manipulate the sounds within words.
While reading poetry together with your child, it’s important to take some time to talk about words that sound the same at the end, or rhyme. Explain what rhyming means and point out the words that rhyme.
Phonological awareness is a necessary skill needed for phonics, writing, and reading.
Our 8 favorite poetry for children book list
1. Where the Sidewalk Ends
Where the Sidewalk Ends. When I was a Montessori teacher, at the end of the school day, at the last circle time before it was time to go home, I would read poetry to the children.
By then it had been a long day, everyone was tired and ready to wrap up and say goodbye. Reading poems from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends turned out to be a silly ritual. Everyone being a bit tired made it even more silly!
Our favorite poem by far, was Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out. Every time I read it the children would giggle and say “Eww” after each line. Some of the children would recite the poem with me.
We eventually got through all of the poems in the book. These silly poems really grabbed the children’s attention! My daughter smiled and giggled while listening to these poems, too.
2. Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry. We first checked this book out of the library about a year ago, when Annie was two-and-a-half. This is a lovely collection of poems with beautiful illustrations. It’s perfect for older toddlers and preschool aged children; probably the best for this age group on this book list. Reading these poems always puts smiles on our faces!
This book has poems by A.A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh), and Margaret Wise Brown (author of Goodnight Moon), including many other poets. I like that all the poems are short and easy for little ones to follow.
When Annie was two-and-a-half, I read this book over and over at nap time and before bed. After about a week she started reciting some of the lines from the poems randomly throughout the day. At first I wasn’t sure what she was saying. But when we revisited the poems, then I remembered where she got them from!
3. Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year
Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year. We first checked this book out of the library about a year ago. Annie was two-and-a-half and she wasn’t very interested in this at the time.
This is a very large and heavy poetry book. It’s almost like in a calendar format because there is a poem listed for each day of the year, organized by month. I like how the poems go with the change of seasons and holidays.
We checked the book out again and now Annie loves it! We just had winter weather this past weekend in North Carolina, so it was fun to read all of the wintry poems of January from this book. We were reading the poems while looking at the icy weather through the window.
Also, the illustrations are gorgeous. We weren’t able to get through all of the poems in this book because we checked it out at the library. But I can see how you can go through the book each day, week, or month and read the corresponding poems.
This poetry book features several classic poets including E. E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Beatrix Potter, Robert Luis Stevenson, William Shakespeare and many others. It’s a great collection of poetry for children, younger and older, as well as for adults! I enjoyed reading it myself, more than any of the others on this book list.
4. Read-Aloud Rhymes For the Very Young
Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young. This collection of poetry for children is a newer find for me. The collection is by Jack Prelutsky and features classic nursery rhymes and children’s poets. It’s a great choice for infants, toddlers, and preschool aged children, as well as for kindergarteners.
We are currently reading these rhymes at nap time and before bed and Annie loves them. She really likes the rhymes about animals, mostly the page with the mice. I like how the poems are grouped together by topic or season.
Also, the illustrations by Marc Brown (Arthur books) are so sweet. Every young child is sure to find a poem she can relate to and love in this book!
5. It's Raining Pigs and Noodles
It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles. If you like Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, you’ll also love It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles by Jack Prelutsky. Both books are the silliest on this book list.
It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles is a collection of very silly poems that’s sure to make your little one laugh! Annie even smiled when I read the title of the book to her. The first poem of the book, It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles has the same title as the book. She giggled the whole way through the poem.
I also read this collection of silly poetry to the children in my Montessori classroom at the end of the day. Their favorite was Percy’s Perfect Pies, and they roared with laughter after each line!
6. The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. This collection of poetry for children is selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel (Frog and Toad series).
This collection is a new find for me. It has more poems than the Read-Aloud Rhymes book above, and many of the poems here are for children a bit older (Kindergarten-Upper Elementary).
I appreciate how this large collection of poems are organized in unique sections with clever titles, such as:
- Dogs and Cats and Bears and Bats
- The Ways of Living Things
- Children Children Everywhere
- I’m Hungry
- Alphabet Stew
Annie loved listening to the poems as I was going through them. She instantly loved Too Many Daves by Dr. Seuss, another silly “nonsense” poem!
7. Eric Carle's Animals Animals
Eric Carle’s Animals Animals. As a Montessori teacher, I’ve always been a fan of Eric Carle’s books. Our favorite is the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is a beautiful book for toddlers and preschool age children.
Eric Carle’s cut-out collage illustrations and designs are so original and inventive. I was thrilled to discover that he also had a poetry collection featuring animals. It’s a real treat to read these poems together and see the beautiful pictures. Annie enjoys animals so she loves to listen to these poems.
8. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers. When Annie first laid eyes on this book at the library she wouldn’t let go of it. Even when we were checking out our books she was hesitant to give it up to the librarian so that she could scan it!
Annie is a big fan of Mister Rogers. We watch episodes sometimes on the Mister Rogers website or on PBS Kids. She especially loves the song he sings to the little boy in a wheelchair, “It’s You I Like.” She found the page and we sang the song together over and over again with a big smile on her face.
The Mister Rogers Poetry book is a wonderful collection 75 rhyming songs he sang on his show. It’s a beautiful collection of songs that can be read as poetry. His words teach us about kindness, our feelings, and loving ourselves and others just the way we are.
Concluding thoughts about poetry for children
I really hope you and your child enjoy these poetry for children collections. Whether delving into a new poem or revisiting one from the past, these poems and stories are a real foundational step to the development of language.
But beyond the technical benefits of phonological awareness and rhyming sounds, I feel that it’s really important to keep it light and fun. The silly “nonsense” poems are a big hit with kids and increases their engagement.
Overall, I found that it’s so helpful to be silly and bring humor with you each day if you’re working with young children, whether teaching or working with your little one at home.
It’s also important to remember that children need to hear that “music of language.” The repetitive nature and joyful cadence of the rhyming words and phrases really captures their attention. What a fun way to learn language!
What is your child’s favorite poem? Is there a poem/story that your child loves which you also loved as a child? For me, it was Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. It makes me so happy to see Annie discover the same joy I found in that rhyming story. Leave a comment below!
More Montessori Resources
If you liked this post, you’ll also like:
- Try This Cute Recycled Owl Craft And Make A Rhyme Come Alive
- 1 Important Rhyming Activity To Prepare For Phonemic Awareness
- Create 4 Simple and Playful Storytelling for Kids Activities
- How To Encourage Print Awareness With 140 Super Simple Labels
- The Essential Guide To 11 Fun Oral Language Development Activities
You can also download the lesson plan for Lesson 1: Beginning Oral Language Activities. I will be adding all of the lesson plans as I write additional blog posts about Oral Language.
I also created cutting strips for winter. Using scissors and cutting is great for developing the muscles in the hand, preparing for handwriting.
You can download them all below, by signing up for the Resources Library.