On April 1, National Poetry Month will begin. No foolin’! It’s a time for readers and writers, teachers and learners, and lovers of all things literary to focus on the art of the poem. And for middle grade enthusiasts, there is plenty of poetry to go around.
National Poetry Month was launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996. The aim was to shine a spotlight on the integral role of poets and poems in our national culture. Since that time, Poetry Month has become a worldwide literary celebration. Schoolteachers, librarians, booksellers, and publishers approach April with great enthusiasm, and readers are delighted. So are poets.
Poetic license allows structure, form, content, and tone to meander in their own directions, so there’s something for everyone. Explore this sampling of middle grade poetry in its many variations.
The Funny Stuff
Sometimes, we all need a good laugh. For kids who enjoy humor, there are some ever-popular poets to explore, like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky. Or, for something new, you might want to try Brian P. Cleary’s Something Sure Smells Around Here: Limericks. Cleary turns jokes into limericks, adding humor to a child’s developing sense of rhythm and rhyme.
Do you know kids who enjoy reading works that have stood the test of time? Publishers and editors have carefully curated collections of poems by the likes of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou that are appropriate for and appealing to a middle-grade audience. A quick search will yield quite a selection of well-loved works that are just right for middle-grade readers. As an enticing example, check out the beautifully illustrated, recently released collection called Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes.
The Rhythm Seekers
Poetry is musical, and a lot of music begins as poetry! Practice reading song lyrics and becoming immersed in the flow of language. Kindle some kinesthetic learning with jump ropes, cheers, and dance moves. Inspire kids to set their own verses to music, and encourage them to perform. If you know a reader who will respond to rhythm and you’d like to find “50 inspiring poems with a beat,” check out Hip Hop Speaks to Children, with works selected for kids by poet Nikki Giovani.
A Study of Style
Newbery Award-winning author and poet Kwame Alexander has reignited a passion for novels in verse, and he has also worked with others to create new poetry in the style of established poets. Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, pays homage to 20 different poets by imitating the masters to create original works. This collection is called Out of Wonder, and it’s great for studying the elements and devices that define beloved poets. These poems can also serve as a springboard for students’ original works. They can join the fun and create in the style of famous creators.
Find Your Inner Poet
Poet Irene Latham explores found poetry in This Poem is a Nest. From a single poem about the seasonal evolution of a bird’s nest, Latham creates 161 smaller “nestlings,” or found poems. In her introduction, Latham provides guidance and instruction in developing found poetry, and at the end, she offers tips that will turn fledgling writers into proud poets. This Poem is a Nest is sure to spark the creativity of readers.
Share Some Poetry Love
Beyond sharing these books with young readers, there’s so much more to explore! If the thought of Poetry Month excites you, you will probably be even more excited to find out there are a lot of ways you can get involved in this month-long poetry party. For example…
- Sign up for Poem-a-Day during the month of April, and receive daily installments of the work of contemporary poets.
- Share your own poetry on social media, and use the hashtag #NationalPoetryMonth. (Be sure to tag @poetsorg on Twitter and Instagram!)
- Organize a poetry reading, poetry slam, or poetry contest in your community.
- Participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day, and if you do so on social media, be sure to use the hashtag #PocketPoem.
No matter what your poetic preferences may be, April is the month to immerse yourself in the beauty and power of the written word. If you need some ideas for ways to observe National Poetry Month, hop on over to poets.org to plan the perfect poetry celebration.