This is the perfect time to show kids of any age how to appreciate poetry. Dr. Seuss is the king of fun kid rhymes, but there is a great deal more to read and enjoy in the universe of poems for kids.
A Selection of Poetry for Kids
Take a look below at some of the more popular children’s poems, and consider reading them aloud to your child to help them begin to appreciate the art of poetry:
Share a laugh over the surprise ending of At the Zoo by William Makepeace Thackeray:
At the Zoo
First I saw the white bear, then I saw the black;
Then I saw the camel with a hump upon his back;
Then I saw the grey wolf, with mutton in his maw;
Then I saw the wombat waddle in the straw;
Then I saw the elephant a-waving of his trunk;
Then I saw the monkeys—mercy, how unpleasantly they smelt!
Or, you and your family could lie down in the grass at a park and recite Clouds by Christina Rossetti:
White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?
For little adventurers on a rainy day, nothing beats The Land of Counterpane by Robert Louis Stevenson:
The Land of Counterpane
When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
The first line of Mary’s Lamb is so familiar to kids and adults alike, but many may have never heard the poem beyond the first stanza. It’s a great poem to read all the way through to kids as it reminds them to be kind to animals.
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And every where that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go;
He followed her to school one day—
That was against the rule,
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.
And so the Teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear;
And then he ran to her, and laid
His head upon her arm,
As if he said—“I’m not afraid—
You’ll keep me from all harm.”
“What makes the lamb love Mary so?”
The eager children cry—
“O, Mary loves the lamb, you know,”
The Teacher did reply;—
“And you each gentle animal
In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
If you are always kind.”
Sarah Josepha Hale, 1788–1879
How Poetry Impacts Academic Performance
Reading aloud poems to kids is fun for them, but it’s also a very effective way to teach literacy skills, turbocharge their vocabularies, and expand their cultural awareness. Across all cultures, kids connect to each other through poetry. Art and literature have repeatedly proven their value in academic success.
In one recent study, for example, children at a public school in New York improved their language arts scores by eight percent thanks to an arts integration program. Even more impressive is the fact that they also improved their math scores by nine percent and significantly reduced their absentee rates because art makes learning fun.
Winning with Words
Spark your child’s interest in the power of poetry with special programs and contests. K12 holds an annual poetry contest, which is usually in April, and you can also find contests at the Poetry Society of America website. Also, consider buying a poetry book for your child. The Goodreads website has a nice selection of children’s poetry books.
Poetry can sweep away you and your family with the beauty of language and original ways of viewing the world around you. There’s no telling where you’ll end up!