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 20th 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 21). In all, the site lists 30 ways to make this month memorable. Look for links to word games (try "Exquisite Corpse") and a free poetry month poster.
2. Get a daily poem
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 (!).
4. Read up online
Every day of April, KidSpirit and Spirituality & Practice offer a piece written by a young poet. For something lighter, read McSweeney's "16 Classic Poems That Will Change Your Life!" Also check out Tweetspeak Poetry's "Top 10 Poetry Sites to Follow for National Poetry Month," or perhaps even convince your teen to submit a poem to Teen Ink's monthly poetry contest.
5. Peruse these poetry books
My current favorite is National Book Award finalist and Newberry Honor winner Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson. You might also enjoy When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons, a recently published book of poetry by Julie Fogliano I heard about from The Book Mommy.
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!, a book full of creative writing exercises for young writers.
6. Start some at-home word play
A personal favorite is 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 under 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