Poetry Books for Kids
Young children love poetry, it's lyrical nature and rhyming verses. Learning and identifying these rhymes is actually an important pre-reading skill. In fact the early childhood development program Ready for Kindergarten recommends that children memorize 6 to 10 nursery rhymes before kindergarten. Nursery rhymes are children's poetry that often feature a simple couplet rhyming scheme. Here are four of my daughters' favorite books that encouraged their love of poetry.
Single Poem Children's Books
A poem that my younger daughter in particular loved to hear chanted was Sandra Boynton's Barnyard Dance. As we chanted the poem together the girls would dance about the room with their stuffed animals. The board book features a poem modeled after the calls you might hear at a square dance. The pictures are of silly cartoon animals square dancing together. An engaging poem for preschoolers, which you can make more educational by asking your child to identify the rhymes. "What word rhymed with cluck?" Don't do this every time as you want you child to be able to enjoy the lyrical flow of poetry.
If you'd like to read a story that gets away from the simple couplet style of most children's poetry try reading The Napping House by Audrey Wood. The poem builds upon itself in the manner of The House that Jack Built. The poem uses a variety of adjectives and a couple of instances of alliteration (a phrase featuring a repeating beginning letter). The pictures by Don Wood are also a delight. My girls love to find all the sleeping characters on every page. On occasion we have increased the educational experience by talking about the number of words the author uses for sleeping. As I read the story my girls love to "predict" what will happen next. Young children will love the repetitive nature of this poem.
Poetry Collections for Children
If you are looking for a collection of poetry for your child there are two books I would recommend. TomiedePaola's Rhyme Time features a variety of poems by author's you will recognize. The book contains poems by William Blake, Dorothy Aldis, Robert Louis Stevenson, and A. A. Milne among others. The book introduces several rhyme schemes besides the couplet: a simple 4 line scheme (ABCB), an enclosed rhyme (ABBA) and even a couple of poems that do not rhyme at all. A fun way to introduce your child to a variety of poetry styles that are all at a level that young children will appreciate and enjoy.
The other poetry collection I would recommend is The Rooster Crowsby Maud and Miska Petersham. This book received the Caldecott Medal. (If you wanted more that just my recommendation.) Unlike Tomie dePaola's book this is a collection of traditional American nursery rhymes, finger games, skipping rhymes, jingles and counting-out rhymes. With over 50 rhymes, you will find some you might remember from your own childhood and some that will be completely new. The illustrations and the color palate will also remind you of the nursery rhymes from your youth. This is a book you will enjoy sharing with your children.
Introduce your child to a wide variety of poetry. Then reread the poems she loved until your child is saying the words with you as you read. When you child can repeat six to ten rhymes without assistance she will be well set to take the next step toward reading. Enjoy reading together at least 20 minutes a day!
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