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How to Celebrate National Poetry Month With the Whole Family

These six activities make poems fun for readers of all ages

Published on: April 04, 2023

Grandma and child sitting on the floor of a library reading a book

Poetry is my first true love.

I fell hard for it early; my first published poem appeared in a Girl Scout magazine during fourth grade. Then I went to college and in a regrettable class, learned why some people don’t love poetry. Without the right teacher, it can be gruesome.

If the word poetry makes you as itchy as spring allergies, I'm here to tell you that reading the right poem is a wonderful aha moment. Better yet, poetry is a great genre for children of all ages. First off, it's short. It can also be funny — see Shel Silverstein. Most importantly, however, poems can help show kids they’re not alone when it comes to difficult feelings. 

April marks the 27th anniversary of National Poetry Month — the world's largest literary celebration, according to the Academy of American Poets (APA). To celebrate, here are six easy steps to help you fall for (or continue to love) poetry.

1. Try activities from the APA.

My favorite suggestion: Download a poem to slip into your pocket for Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 27). In all, the site lists many ways to make this month memorable. Look for links to word games (try Exquisite Corpse) and a free poetry month poster.

2. Subscribe to receive a daily poem.

There are plenty of ways to subscribe to receive a poem a day: The APA, the Poetry Foundation's Audio Poem of the Day and Today's Poem at Poetry Daily are just a few sources. 

3. Visit your local library.

Check out any poetry on display, and then search out call numbers that start with J808. Hint: These aren't usually in the kids' area, so you'll have to wonder over to the adult section.

The King County Library System has a monthlong poetry contest with three age categories. Enter today for a chance to win a $25 gift card!

4. Read up online.

Each day in April, KidSpirit and Spirituality & Practice offer a piece written by a young poet. You can also check out Tweetspeak Poetry's Top 10 Poetry Sites to Follow for National Poetry Month, or perhaps even convince your teen to look at the poetry section of Teen Ink (if you have an aspiring writer, be sure to watch Teen Ink's website for current writing contests).

5. Peruse these poetry books.

One of my favorites is Jaqueline Woodson's “Brown Girl Dreaming,” which won National Book Award and Newbery Medal honors. You might also enjoy “When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons,” a book of poetry by Julie Fogliano. 

If you are looking for beautiful, nature-inspired poetry, you can't go wrong with the late Mary Oliver. Looking for something funny yet poignant? Give former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins a try. Joy Harjo's “She Had Some Horses” is a classic collection sure to inspire and enrage.     

Looking for something romantic for after the kids go to bed? Try “Sonnets From the Portuguese” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This collection features 44 of the most beautiful love sonnets ever written.  

While a book that shows how poets observe and write about the world isn't technically a poetry book, it still makes good reading. I recommend Ted Kooser's collection “The Wheeling Year: A Poet's Field Book,” featuring short prose observations about nature, time and place. Other favorites include “Love That Dog” by Sharon Creech and Karen Benke's “Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing,” a book full of creative writing exercises for young writers.

Still looking for more? This list of more than 20 books to read with your child will keep you busy all month. If you find books you need to add to your collection at home, consider heading (in-person or online) to the University Book Store where poetry books are 25 percent off for the month of April.  

6. Start some at-home wordplay.

Magnetic poetry tiles are a great way to turn those 30 seconds of waiting for the microwave into a spur-of-the-moment poetry session. See who can come up with the silliest poem, the longest poem or the shortest poem. What better way to release your inner creative writer!   

My family also loves speed haiku. Each player gives a word until you have 17 syllables, aka the raw material of one haiku (line one has five syllables, line two has seven, and line three has five again). Behold! Your family has authored a haiku in less than 60 seconds. Don't worry if it doesn't make much sense. Just look at this example from designer Rolf Nelson:

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense

Editor's note: This article was originally published several years ago and most recently update in 2023. Kari Hanson contributed to this article. 

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