Children's poems have long been a literary favorite. Poetry is a form of literature that uses rhythm, rhyme, pattern, tone, mood, and form to convey meaning. Young children are naturally attracted to the rhythmic sounds, patterns, and word-play in children's poems. Reading poetry to young children helps them to develop phonemic awareness and to explore the sounds of language. Older children are able to better understand and express their emotions by reading and writing poetry.
Poetic Forms for Children's Poems
Nursery Rhymes are an excellent way to introduce very young children to poetry. Mother Goose nursery rhymes are the most well-known and appeal to young children because they are short, familiar, and easy to read. Many of them also incorporate body movement and have been set to song. You can find hundreds of age-appropriate nursery rhymes at Just Playing: Nursery rhymes and Silly Stuff. Here Comes Mother Goose, edited by Iona Archibald Opie and illustrated by Rosemary Wells, is a wonderful anthology of Mother Goose nursery rhymes.
Children of all ages enjoy poems that make them laugh. Elementary aged children especially enjoy humorous verse. Some well-known books of humorous children's poems are Nonsense Poems by Edward Lear, Eletelephony by Laura Richards, and The Adventures of Isabel by Ogden Nash. One of the best love children's poets of humorous verse is Shel Silverstein. His humorous poems allow children to see every day, familiar aspects of life in comical and unusual ways. A Light in the Attic is his best known anthology of humorous poems. After reading it, children often like to try their hands at writing their own funny verses.
Narrative poems are poems that use the conventions and elements of poetry to tell a story. The history of poetry is rich with narrative poems that were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Ballads, poems written to be sung, are the most well known type of narrative poems, and their classic stanza form and use of repetition make them popular with children. They also lend themselves to read-alouds. Upper elementary aged children enjoy longer, narrative poems like "Birches" by Robert Frost and "On Turning Ten" by Billy Collins. "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, is one of the most well-known American narrative poems and is loved by children of all ages.
Lyric poems take their name from poems that were traditionally written to accompany the lyre. They are usually short, personal poems, often written about a single subject, with one voice. Examples of lyric poetry are the elegy and the ode. Lyric poetry appeals to children because they are rich with descriptive words and poetic devices like similes and metaphors, which allow children to experience both their world and language in different ways. Lyric poetry often is written in traditional couplet and quatrain form with end rhyme. Even young children can write simple lyric poems. A Child's Anthology of Poetry is full of excellent examples of lyric poems for children.
Simple Poems Children can Write
The haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry made up of 17 syllables divided among three lines. The first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the third line has 5 syllables. The haiku is traditionally written about nature, has a single mood and emotion, and does not use rhyme. Once children can count word syllables they enjoy writing Haikus.
Acrostic poems are formed by writing one word representing the subject of the poem vertically on the page. Each letter is capitalized. Each letter of the word begins a line of the poem. Each line of the poem describes the word. Young children love to write acrostic poems about themselves by using the letters of their name. Simple concepts like colors or animals make great topics for acrostic poems. Children can be successful at writing acrostic poetry at just about any age.
Limericks are humorous poems that follow a very specific pattern. It is a five line poem made up of one couplet and one triplet with the rhyme scheme of AABBA. Limericks are usually light, humorous, and often times, bawdy. It is said that the limerick was originated in the town of Limerick, Ireland in the 1700's. Once children have listened to many examples of the limerick, they usually enjoy writing their own. Preview limericks and stick to children's anthologies to make sure the material is child-friendly. Nonsense Poems by Edward Lear is full of appropriate limericks.