Poetry can be a difficult topic to navigate. Although poetry is a wonderful form of expression, both written and verbal, for one reason or another it tends to be an area of English learning that falls by the wayside.

However, that shouldn’t be the case, because poetry can have so many benefits and can really help develop a child’s English language skills. What’s more, with so many poetry books out there that are aimed at children, there’s no reason why a child can’t learn to appreciate this often overlooked subject from an early age.

Below outlines just why learning about poetry is important for children, and also provides a list of books of poetry that are great for children. Finally, suggestions are provided as to who you can ask for further information about children’s poetry books.

Why Is Poetry For Kids Important?

Although poetry does not necessarily have the best reputation among subjects for children to study, this is often due to the way in which poetry is taught to children and young adults, rather than from any issues with the area itself.

Often, poetry is sidelined for other aspects of the English curriculum, when in fact it can be both incredibly interesting to study as well as satisfying.

Not only can poetry help introduce children to different writing styles and give them a wider range of works to read, there are a number of other benefits to teaching children the importance of poetry:

  • It can help develop children’s reading and speaking skills, as often poetry books for children are accompanied by endearing illustrations highlighting what’s going on in the story;
  • It teaches children sentence structure and can introduce them to grammatical concepts, from verbs and adjectives to nouns; and
  • Poems are generally shorter than other written works, so they can be a great learning tool if a child has a short attention span, or is nervous about writing longer written works.
A book with various letters and characters flying out of the pages. Poems for kids can be very popular.
Poetry books for children can be a great learning tool. (Image: CC0 1.0, Max Pixel)

Poetry Books For Children – What To Look For

There are a number of different things that influence which poetry books would be most suitable for a child, including:

  • The age of the child and whether the book is intended for children of that age range;
  • The length of the book, which is important if the child prefers long or short reads; and
  • Whether the child has any preferences in poetry style or types of poets.

The below poetry books are generally considered suitable for primary school-age children and often rank well in lists of the best poetry books that you can read to kids.

Of course, if you are ever in doubt, then it may be worth reading through the book yourself at first, to check the book’s content and make sure it is something that is suitable for the child and is something that they would enjoy reading.

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Without further ado, some of the best poetry books for kids are as follows:

The Cat In The Hat, Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss’ The Cat In The Hat is an easy entry into poetry for children and is as easy to read out loud with adults as it is for a child to read on their own. The rhyme of the poem can be sung too which can also really help engage a child's imagination and help spark their creativity.

The Complete Poems of Winnie-The-Poo, A.A. Milne

A.A. Milne is often mentioned when it comes to children’s books and poetry writing and for good reason. Charming generation after generation of children, this collection of poems brings together the works of When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six.

It’s a comprehensive collection, coming in at a few hundred pages in length, and it’s suitable for a wide range of reading ages. In particular, it is recommended for children between the ages of three and eight.

Find some great poetry writing courses online.

Revolting Rhymes, Roald Dahl

A short and sweet book, Revolting Rhymes is a great way to introduce children to poetry. Roald Dahl retells six different fairy tales, with the stories taking on different endings.

This book is a wonderful read if your child likes Roald Dahl and his humour or is a fan of fairy tales.

A photo of hands holding words that spell out poetry. The photo is on an orange background, and magnetic words are below the photo. Poetry books for kids can often be found in libraries.
Some poetry books for kids are hugely popular. (Image: CC BY-SA 2.0, Teresa Grau Ros, Flickr)

101 Poems for Children, Carol Ann Duffy

If you want to find poems suitable for children, then you could do far worse than to ask a Poet Laureate. Carol Ann Duffy rises to the challenge and has selected a variety of poems that are great for children, including both modern and classic works.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein

This collection of poems has been popular for decades, and it’s easy to see why. With a mixture of tales within the work, there’s a story for every child to enjoy, and the illustrations really make the collection spring to life as well.

Mix and Match to See What Suits

Feel free to experiment with some, or all, of the above works, and see which ones your child best responds to. If it turns out, for example, that your child really enjoys reading Roald Dahl, then you can begin to introduce them to more of his works, including anything non-poetry related, such as Matilda or George's Marvellous Medicine.

Of course, if you’re ever looking for further inspiration on which poetry books might be suitable for children, then you can always reach out to a primary school teacher for their recommendations or you could speak to an English tutor for their take on what’s currently popular with kids.

Superprof has a wide range of English tutors, so it’s a case of searching for a tutor that has experience in primary education and reaching out to them for help.

A book with a pink and yellow flower inserted between the pages. There are a number of poetry books for kids out there.
Try a variety of poetry books for children to see which books work best. (Image: CC0 1.0, Nikon D5100, Max Pixel)

Experienced Teachers Can Highlight The Best Poems For Kids

As noted above, when in doubt, it’s best to ask an expert for their advice on what poems your child may be interested in.

Poetry can be approached at any age, and a child can start to read poetry as soon as they begin to read other forms of written works.

So if your child is still just a toddler, it may be worth speaking to a worker at that child’s nursery, if applicable, to see whether they have any poetry books on hand for kids to read and if there are any they would recommend for young learners to read at home.

Equally, if your child has reached primary school, ask the teacher which works of poetry are on the school’s curriculum, and whether there would be any works that you could borrow or buy for your child that would supplement their learning.

Although there are many popular poets are writers that are usually covered in schools, such as William Wordsworth, William Butler YeatsKenn Nesbitt, Sylvia Plath, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Christina Rossetti to name a few, it's unlikely that a school will be able to cover the works every famous poet and poet laureate, so some outside input from teachers and tutors can be appreciated.

Naturally, always feel free to ask the child themselves to see what kind of poetry they enjoy. For example, they may prefer a sonnet over other forms of writing poetry, such as nursery rhymes, a haiku, limerick, nonsense poetry or free verse.

The nature of the poem may also have an impact on how well a child responds to it as well. For example, some kids may prefer to read aloud silly or funny poems, whereas others may prefer to read through a whole poetry collection that has a range of poems in different styles.

Finally, if you’d like to improve your child’s understanding of poetry or would like to develop their creative writing skills further, then you can also look at hiring a personal tutor for your child to help them in their poetry reading and writing.

Writing poetry and drafting new poems can help to develop a child's creativity and also teach them about important concepts such as rhyme and rhythm, the impact of reading the written word aloud, and other literary skills that can come in use when writing creative works of fiction or non-fiction.

Superprof has English tutors with experience in teaching children to both write and read poetry. So if this is an area of English that you would like your child to gain a deeper appreciation of, whether because it’s an area they enjoy or because you feel poetry is not given enough attention in the school curriculum, a tutor can be a great way to develop a child’s understanding of poetic techniques and devices.

Equally, a tutor can also help develop a child's knowledge and awareness of English language and literature more broadly, so in that respect, a tutor can provide a wide variety of ongoing assistance when it comes to your child's English education.

Simply enter your postcode on Superprof to be matched with local English teachers in your area, or to find a tutor that is able to provide online learning.

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Lucy is a freelance writer and wine enthusiast, who loves travelling and exploring new places.