Monday, April 5, 2021

April Is Poetry Month! Here Are Some Poems to Eat

April is Poetry Month. April is the perfect time for celebrating poetry through read alouds. Actually, any time is the perfect time for reading poetry aloud. Poetry is meant to be read aloud and children love poetry. But April, with its symbols of rebirth, with the daffodils and cherry blossoms blooming and with dormant grass and barren trees coming back to life seems like the best of times for Poetry Month. So, as Eve Merriam suggests in the poem above, let's dig right in and choose some favorite poems to munch on.

Inner Chimes, is a collection of poems about poetry selected by Bobbye S. Goldstein and illustrated by Jane Briskin Zalben. It contains the Eve Merriam poem cited above as well as all manner of poems that discuss how poems are made, how they should be read, and how they are created. Poems by children's poetry luminaries like Karla Kuskin, Eleanor Farjeon, Jack Prelutsky, and Nikki Giovanni are included. This book makes a great introduction to a unit on poetry for students of all ages.

he Earth is Painted Green, edited by Barbara Brenner and lushly illustrated by S. D. Schindler, is a book dedicated to the celebration of planet Earth through poetry. The book is the perfect compilation for Earth Day celebrations, April 22 this year. Poets anthologized here include X.J. Kennedy, Shel Silverstein, David McCord, Myra Cohn Livingston, and Lillian Moore.

In I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, famed poet Naomi Shahib Nye and famed poetry anthologist Paul B. Janeczko collaborate to collect poems that look at a variety of topics from the differing points of view of women poets and men poets. Topics explored include how men perceive women and women perceive men, and how different sexes view the world. The poems delineate our differences, but also, how we are in many ways very much the same.

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems, edited by the great American poet Donald Hall, is the essential anthology for classroom libraries. It covers the breadth of American poetic history from early Native American verse to contemporary voices from the Barrio. Poets represented run from Emily Dickenson to Sonia Sanchez, from Robert Frost to Shel Silverstein, from T. S. Eliot to Janet S. Wong. With this anthology on your shelf, you will always have an appropriate poem to match what your teaching at the moment.

Children who are new to poetry may wish to start small and this collection of short form master Valerie Worth's four volumes of short poems is just what the doctor ordered. Her friend and fellow children's author, Natalie Babbitt, provides the charming illustrations. All the Small Poems and Fourteen More makes an excellent introduction to non-rhyming poetry for all children and, therefore, acts as a spur for children to write their own poems. In my classroom, it was a key mentor text for a writing unit on poetry. Here is a (ahem) brief example.

Coins are pleasant
To the hand;
Neat cirles, smooth,
A little heavy,
They feel as if
They are worth something.

If you are looking for ideas on how to integrate poetry into your literacy instruction, Poetic Possibilities, edited by Susan E. Israel with Michelle M. Israel, will be helpful. The authors offer a collection of poems taken from the pages of the journal, The Reading Teacher, and provide discussion prompts and literacy applications for each poem. Full disclosure: I was honored to have one of my poems included in this anthology. You can read it below.

Under the Table
by Russ Walsh

Under the table’s the best place to read.
A good book and small table are all that I need,
For a morning’s adventure
Or a tale of dark doom.
Under the table –
My own reading room.

Under the table, where it’s dark and it’s quiet,
I open a book and start my own reading riot,
With castles and dragons
And maids in distress
And a hero to ride in
And clean up the mess.

 Under the table I’ve a place of my own,
Where my book and I can be left quite alone,
To climb the high mountains
Or swim with the fishes
To uncover a genie
To fulfill my wishes.

So that’s why each morning at just about 10,
When time for reading rolls around once again,
Under the table’s
Where I can be found
With a book on my lap
And no one around.

Enjoy sharing poetry with children this month!


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