April is National Poetry Month, and while my adult poets and I struggle to produce a poem a day, children in and out of school are naturally writing and enjoying poetry in all senses of the word. Poetry can have a beat, it can be spoken aloud or savored in silence on the page, and it can be easily interwoven in the everyday lives of children. Kids of all ages naturally resonate with narrative and emotion presented in various poetic forms. Some of my favorite teachers recognize this as they put even the simplest demands to children to a beat, creating little poems out of everyday routines like getting your coat on. So let’s celebrate April with five poetry books for children that explore form, beat, and color, and remind children and adults alike that poetry is with us in everything we do.
1) Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat by Nikki Giovanni. Hip hop is the new poetry. The best hip hop artists know this. Artists like Queen Latifah and Kanye West are just some of the folks that are highlighted in this wonderful journey of hip hop and hip hop-inspired poetry for children. Nikki Giovanni even includes Langston Hughes, one of my personal favorite poets of all time, who would have loved hip hop today. It includes a cd for you and your kids to rhyme along.
2) Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill. This little gem of a poetry collection is full of exploring color through poetry, with beautiful illustrations and images that really evoke the colors being described. Like lines in the poem about the color brown describing cinnamon toast. Yum.
3) Honey, I Love and other Love Poems by Eloise Greenfield. A classic Reading Rainbow pick- this is an excellent introduction to Eloise Greenfield’s beautiful ways with words. Read these love poems with your children and then explore her other picture books too.
4) The Tree That Time Built selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston. What a cool idea for a book! Hoberman, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, created this anthology of poems with the theme of environmental awareness and the wonders of the natural world. I love how it relates poets and scientists together, because it makes perfect sense- to be a great poet, you have to be a great observer, just like in science. This is an inspiring way to teach children the power of acute observation and seeing the beauty in everything around us.
5) A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms by Paul B. Janeczko. This is a delightful book in a trilogy of poetry studies, partnered with colorful and zany illustrations by Chris Raschka. It was just in the past year that I learned what a pantoum was (a series of quatrains with repeating lines) and children get access to a variety of poetic forms and their rules in a simple and fun-filled way. Shakespeare’s sonnets are presented right alongside an example of an elegy and 27 other forms.
As an added bonus, here’s a great book for parents and educators that combines poetry, community activism, and social change: June’s Jordan’s Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint by June Jordan and the Blueprint Collective. This book compiles all of the teachings of the awe-inspiring poet, professor, and activist June Jordan and her Poetry for the People class. It teaches parents and educators how to create lesson plans to present poetry from all kinds of backgrounds, many of which are not usually highlighted, and how to create a poetry program in your community.
Enjoy the wonderful video from the amazing Nikki Giovanni!
Northwest Philly Parents is a partnership between Newsworks and Germantown Avenue Parents.