Poetry in Play

Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight. – Mem Fox, Reading Magic, 2001

Poetry is near and dear to my heart. My love of poetry came from my father, who would read poems to me every night before I went to sleep. He is a poet and always shared his love of words with me. That love of words and the beauty of language is something to which I have dedicated my life’s work. Poetry allowed me to play with words, discover their wonder, create new worlds, and express my emotions. Even now, my ninety-year-old father will send me an email with one of his poems or a few lines of a well-known poem. It is the way we communicate best!

In the school where I work as the ELA Curriculum Coordinator, teachers include poetry in their curriculum at every grade level. Some teachers develop multi-week units devoted to poetry, while others decide to sprinkle poetry lessons like sugar throughout the school year. I am happy to serve as the guest poet in many classrooms, sharing my strategies for generating, developing, and revising poems. Poetry is a great way to spark student interest and to encourage children to use their imaginations.


  • increases oral reading fluency
  • sparks creative writing
  • enriches vocabulary
  • plays with words and uses figurative language
  • has rhythm and rhyme
  • expresses feelings
  • adds to the enjoyment of nature
  • enhances communication skills

April is National Poetry Month, but I think poetry should be celebrated throughout the year, and I dare say – poetry should be shared each and every day! Here are some suggestions of wonderful recently published poetry books you might want to share with children and begin a tradition of your own!

  1. 100 Great Poems for Girls by Celia Johnson
  2. A Child’s Calendar by John Updike
  3. Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart by Mary Ann Hoberman
  4. Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown
  5. Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth
  6. Hush, Baby, Hush!: Lullabies from Around the World by Kathy Henderson and Pam Smy
  7. I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky
  8. Leave Your Sleep: A Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry by Natalie Merchant and Barbara McClintock
  9. The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits by Douglas Florian (and all of Florian’s books)
  10. Poetry Speaks to Children by Elise Pachen
  11. The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination by Mary Ann Hoberman
  12. Treasury for All Seasons: Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year by Julie Andrews

 Some websites you also might want to explore:

  1. http://www.poets.org
  2. http://www.poetryfoundation.org
  3. http://www.robertmunsch.com/
  4. http://jackprelutsky.com/
  5. http://www.shelsilverstein.com/

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