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Poetry Love: Celebrate National Poetry Month With These Great Children's Books


"Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing." Lucille Cliffton, poet featured in Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander.

From the Academy of American Poets Education: "National Poetry Month each April is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives.

The Academy of American Poets was inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), and founded National Poetry Month in April 1996 with an aim to:

  • highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets,

  • encourage the reading of poems,

  • assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms,

  • increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media,

  • encourage increased publication and distribution of poetry books, and

  • encourage support for poets and poetry."

This list of children's books celebrates the beauty of poetry as well as some of the talented poets who inspire little readers to fall in love the flowing rhythms, lyrical sounds, and self expressions found in poetry.

Helping Kids Rise believes all children deserve access to books that educate, empower and inspire and all of these books fit that mission!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

I Am Enough by Don Tate, Illustrated by Don Tate George loved words. But George was enslaved. Forced to work long hours, George was unable to attend school or learn how to read. But he was determined―he listened to the white children’s lessons and learned the alphabet. Then he taught himself to read. Soon, he began composing poetry in his head and reciting it as he sold fruits and vegetables on a nearby college campus. News of the slave poet traveled quickly among the students, and before long, George had customers for his poems. But George was still enslaved. Would he ever be free? In this powerful biography of George Moses Horton, the first southern African-American man to be published, Don Tate tells an inspiring and moving story of talent and determination. (Ages 6-10)

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson:

Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes.

The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more. (Ages 6-9)

Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander, Chris Corderley, and Marjory Wentworth Illustrated by Ekua Holmes: Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award–winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen. (Ages 8–12)

The Roots of Rap: 16 Bards on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Frank Morrison:

The roots of rap and the history of hip-hop have origins that precede DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. Kids will learn about how it evolved from folktales, spirituals, and poetry, to the showmanship of James Brown, to the culture of graffiti art and break dancing that formed around the art form and gave birth to the musical artists we know today.

Written in lyrical rhythm by award-winning author and poet Carole Boston Weatherford and complete with flowing, vibrant illustrations by Frank Morrison, this book beautifully illustrates how hip-hop is a language spoken the whole world 'round, it and features a foreward by Swizz Beatz, a Grammy Award winning American hip-hop rapper, DJ, and record producer. (Ages 4 and up)

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Maragarita Engle , Illustrated by Rafael Lopez: Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot―the Latinos featured in this collection, Bravo!, come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today!

Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, Tomás Rivera. (Ages 8-12)

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat by Nikki Giovanni, Illustrated by Alicia Vergel de Dios and Damian Ward : Poetry can have both a rhyme and a rhythm. Sometimes it is obvious; sometimes it is hidden. But either way, make no mistake, poetry is as vibrant and exciting as it gets. And when you find yourself clapping your hands or tapping your feet, you know you've found poetry with a beat! Like Poetry Speaks to Children, the New York Times Bestselling classic poetry book and CD that started it all, Hip Hop Speaks to Children is meant to be the beginning of a journey of discovery.

READ more than 50 remarkable poems and songs!

HEAR poetry's rhymes and rhythms from Queen Latifah to Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes to A Tribe Called Quest and more! * Also hear part of Martin Luther Kind's original "I Have a Dream" speech, followed by the remarkable live performance of the speech by Nikki Giovanni, Oni Lasana and Val Gray Ward. * The Hip Hop Speaks to Children CD contains more than 30 performances, either by the artists who created them, or as unique interpretations by admiring poets and artists.

DISCOVER Langston Hughes's elegant gospel "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," A Tribe Called Quest's playful "Ham 'N' Eggs," Sterling A. Brown's hard-luck "Long Track Blues," Gwendolyn Brooks's wake-up call "We Real Cool," Kanye West's lovely "Hey Mama," and Martin Luther King Jr.'s awe-inspiring "I Have a Dream." This is a collection of rhymes and rhythms unlike any other poetry book!

Celebrate with remarkable poets, including: Eloise Greenfield Mos Def Lucille Clifton Oscar Brown Jr. Tupac Shakur Maya Angelou Queen Latifah Nikki Grimes Walter Dean Myers Common and, of course, Nikki Giovanni Poems Include: Ego Tripping Rapper's Delight The Negro Speaks of Rivers Hey Mama Ham 'N' Eggs Everything Is Everything Ladies First

(Ages 7 and up)

My First Book of Haiku Poems by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen, Illustrated by Tracy Gallup: introduces children to inspirational works of poetry and art that speak of our connection to the natural world, and that enhance their ability to see an entire universe in the tiniest parts of it. Each of these 20 classic poems by Issa, Shiki, Basho, and other great haiku masters is paired with a stunning original painting that opens a door to the world of a child's imagination.

A fully bilingual children's book, My First Book of Haiku Poems includes the original versions of the Japanese poems (in Japanese script and Romanized form) on each page alongside the English translation to form a complete cultural experience. Each haiku poem is accompanied by a "dreamscape" painting by award-winning artist Tracy Gallup that will be admired by children and adults alike. Commentaries offer parents and teachers ready-made "food for thought" to share with young readers and stimulate a conversation about each work.

(Ages 5–9)

Where the Sidewalk Ends: the poems and drawings of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,

If you are a dreamer,

A wisher, a liar,

A hope-er, a pray-er,

A magic bean buyer …

Come in ... for where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein's world begins. You'll meet a boy who turns into a TV set, and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist. Shel Silverstein's masterful collection of poems and drawings is at once outrageously funny and profound. (Ages 7 and up)

To learn more about National Poetry Month visit the Poets.org website. Illustration by Ashley Bryan from the children's book I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni.

You can find more Poetry Books in our online bookstore. Disclosure: We earn a small fee for any purchases made through our online bookstore. There is no additional cost to you.

Helping Kids Rise is on a mission to improve the lives of children and the people who love them through literacy, education, and social justice awareness.

#childrensbooks #nationalpoetrymonth #poetrybooks

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