Thinking Outside the Picture Book Stacks: Poetry at Storytime

I'd like to thank the person who suggested today's topic on my reader survey! It reminded me that I've been meaning to incorporate more poetry into storytimes I'm planning for our next session. I'm going to do a series of posts on using material from outside your picture book collection in storytime. This is the first one!

I love using poetry with this audience for a few reasons:
  • Richer language is used in poems as compared with some other genres
  • Preschoolers haven't learned to "hate" or be intimidated by poetry like many older kids (and adults) have
  • Poetry can make a quick transition between longer stories to regain the kids' attention or change the atmosphere of the storytime
  • A lot of parents don't read poetry to/with their kids
I've made some Flannel Friday posts about poems (and some of these are upcoming as well) 

Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton
Moose in Love by Diane Briggs
Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich by Shel Silverstein upcoming
Shadow Wash by Shel Silverstein upcoming
Signals by Shel Silverstein upcoming

Storytimes All Year 'Round
Add some poetry to your school visits with "The Library Cheer" from Shout! Little Poems that Roar by Brod Bagert. (Chorus is: Books are good! Books are great! I want books! I WILL NOT WAIT!") Other good ones suitable for storytime from this collection are "Snack Time," My Shadow," "The Spice of Life" (an ode to every kid's favorite condiment--ketchup), "Teddy Bear" (twist ending!), and "Little Dipper."

PJ storytimers, rejoice! There is lots of fun to be had in Maybe I'll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight and Other Funny Bedtime Poems by Debbie Levy. 

Celebrate seasonal changes with Sharing the Seasons edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, Come to My Party: And Other Shape Poems by Heidi Roemer. 

Preschoolers love to talk about getting dressed! To go along with a storytime on that theme, try Button Up: Wrinkled Rhymes by Alice Schertle. "Joshua's Jammies" is one of the best, but I think "Wanda's Swimsuit" is my favorite. 

Brighten the dreariest month with colorful collections like National Geographic's Book of Animal Poetry and His Shoes Were Far Too Tight by Edward Lear.

Valentine's Day programs aren't complete without a sample or two from Bear Hugs: Romantically Ridiculous Animal Rhymes by Karma Wilson. Celebrate Presidents' Day with older kids by sharing a selection of two from The President's Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents

March is Women's History Month, so let's pay special attention to female poets. Some of the ones you'll find in this post are Karma Wilson, Alice Shertle, Betsy Franco (actor James Franco's mom!), Heidi Roemer, and Debbie Levy, among others. Be on the look out for more and drop me a comment below with women to add! 

It's National Poetry Month, so go nuts! My suggestion here is to hit up and coming poets as well as older favorites like Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutskey, and Alan Katz. 

Let's not forget the mom's! Celebrate them with "Peace" from Someone Used My Toothbrush and Other Bathroom Poems,

June, July, and August
Fun poems for Father's Day: "Bellowing in the Bathroom" from Someone Used My Toothbrush and Other Bathroom Poems

Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham has some quick little poems on campfires and fireworks that would be fun to perk up summer storytimes. 

Kids' poets seem to love the theme of back to school. Look for Countdown to Summer and Messing Around on the Monkey Bars

This actually is a picture book, but I can't help but throw The Spider and The Fly on here because really, what is a better book? Other poems great for the spookiest time of the year: "Clyde's Costume" from Button Up; basically anything from Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown; and for upper elementary students, The Creation of Sam McGee by Robert Service.      

Try adding some food-themed poetry into your Thanksgiving storytime! A favorite of mine is Food Hates You Too.

I'm not going to surprise you with this suggestion, but "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore has about a zillion editions. Also How the Grinch Stole Christmas by an obscure writer named Dr. Seuss. Outside of Christmas, I'd do some of the winter-themed selections from the seasonal collections mentioned earlier. 

Poetry Collections to Share with the Teachers in your Life
My best friend is a teacher, so I'm always on the hunt for books she can share with her inner-city students. Here are some suggestions for various content areas: 

Art: Many kids' poetry collections are illustrated by famous artists like Chris Raschka. Also be on the lookout for collections of concrete poetry. Two of my favorites are Flicker Flash, A Dazzling Display of Dogs, and Come to My Party.  Different poetic forms can be introduced with A Kick in the Head by Paul Janeczko

Language Arts: Look for collections using onomatopoeia or exploring new poetic forms such as Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer.

Music: Song lyrics are closely related to poems, so really anything could work. One to keep an eye out for is The Carnival of the Animals

Science: Science Verse by Jon Scieszka

Ask the readers: Do you use poems in storytime? Which ones? How have they been received? If not, will you try some now? 


  1. Don't forget AA Milne! "Pooh" has been dumbed down by Disney so people think it's all for little kids, and not enough people know "When We Were Very Young" and "Now We Are Six"!

    Start with "The King's Breakfast"--and if you want to see how much fun it can be (I use hats for it) here's a link to Twiggy performing it on "The Muppet Show" long ago:

  2. This is awesome! I like the idea of the Flannel board poems. Thanks so much for the ideas!


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