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Painting with Words: Unleashing Creativity with Poetry Picture Books

Poetry is a unique form of literary expression, blending the beauty of language with rhythm and emotions. In this post, I’ll explore how poetry picture books connect children to poetic expression, enrich their language skills, and ignite their imaginations. They introduce students to diverse poetic forms and help them understand complex emotions and experiences.

A captivating picture of wooden blocks spelling out the word "poetry".

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The Art of Expression: Introducing Poetry in Early Education

Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language. It is a form of artistic expression that uses language to evoke emotions and convey ideas. It can be written in various styles and forms, including haiku, sonnets, and free verse.

Poetry plays an important role in the classroom for several reasons:

  • Language Development: Poetry introduces students to a rich range of vocabulary and language patterns. Poetry’s rhythmic and often rhyming nature makes learning new words and phrases enjoyable and memorable.
  • Emotional Expression: Children learn to express their feelings and thoughts creatively and articulately through poetry. It helps them understand and convey emotions.
  • Creativity and Imagination: Reading and writing poetry encourages creativity and imagination. Poems often use metaphors, similes, and symbolism, which prompt children to think creatively and visualise images in their minds.
  • Cultural and Historical Awareness: Many poems provide insights into different cultures, historical periods, and worldviews. This helps broaden children’s perspectives and fosters a sense of empathy and understanding for diverse experiences.
  • Listening and Speaking Skills: Reciting poetry improves listening skills and phonemic awareness. It also allows children to practice speaking clearly and confidently, which is essential for communication skills.
  • Literary Appreciation: Early exposure to poetry lays the foundation for a lifelong appreciation of literature. It helps children recognise how it can be used to convey messages in powerful ways.
  • Cognitive Skills: Understanding and interpreting poetry can enhance critical thinking skills. Children learn to analyse and interpret the deeper meanings behind words and phrases, improving their analytical abilities.
  • Social-Emotional Learning: Poems often touch on themes related to social and emotional learning, like friendship, kindness, and resilience.
 
A poetry typewriter with the word poetry on top of it.

Unlocking Creativity: The Impact of Poetry on Imagination and Thinking

What kind of teacher are you? One who can’t wait to teach poetry or one who dreads it? I was definitely in the latter group until I hosted Richard Grant, aka the Dreadlock Alien, when I was a teacher-librarian.

His energy, passion and understanding of poetry’s impact helped me see its benefits in the classroom. Find out more about how I organised the Dreadlock Alien’s visit and his impact on the students and teachers in the post How to Host a School Poetry Slam.

Picture books are a great resource for teaching poetry as they use illustrations to help students visualise the themes and emotions conveyed in the poems. They also introduce different styles of poetry and inspire students to create their own poetry. 

There are many benefits to reading and teaching poetry in the classroom, including:

  • improving language skills and memory through rhyme and rhythm.
  • introducing new words and encouraging creative wordplay.
  • understanding the power of words to create images and emotions.
  • analysing poetry develops critical thinking and interpretation skills.
  • personal expression and understanding of different perspectives.
  • discussing poetry promotes respect for diverse opinions and open-mindedness.
  • it helps students explore and express their own identities and experiences.
 
Mother and Daughter Reading Books in a Tent

Questions to Use With the Books about Teaching Poetry in the Classroom

  • What emotions does the poem make you feel?
  • What literary devices are used in the poem?
  • How does the author use language to convey their message?
  • What is the theme of the poem? How do you know?
  • What do you think the author’s purpose was for writing this poem?
  • What connections can you make between the poem and your life experiences?
  • What images does the poem create in your mind?
  • How does the poem use figurative language to create meaning?
  • What is the tone of the poem? What is the mood of the poem?
  • What do you think the title of the poem means?
 

Poetry Books for Children (and adults)

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

This is the first of two poetry books for children by Derrick Barnes. A young black boy describes himself as creative, smart, funny, adventurous, and a good friend. He acknowledges his failures but emphasises his resilience in overcoming setbacks. He shares his fears of being misjudged by others, revealing the reality many young black boys face.

I Am Every Good Thing explores self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-esteem, respect, resilience, and the struggles of being misunderstood.

An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer

An Island Grows describes the formation of an island. It begins with the build-up of red-hot magma under the ocean, eventually breaking the water’s surface to form land teeming with life over time. The book illustrated the cycle of nature and the cause and effect relationship inherent in Earth’s formation processes.

Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford

This is the first of two poetry books for children by Carole Boston Weatherford. A series of poems tells the story of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan in 1915. She navigates through pain, poverty, and legal issues to pursue her dream of becoming a music icon.

Becoming Billie Holiday reflects on resilience and perseverance in adversity and the pursuit of dreams.

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Despite being born into slavery, Harriet Tubman devoted her life to fighting for freedom and equality. Her many roles included – conductor of the Underground Railroad, a nurse, a suffragist, and a spy.

Before She Was Harriet explores courage, perseverance, social justice, and how a single person can bring about change, historical issues like slavery, civil rights, and the role of women in societal changes.

Change Sings: A Children's Anthem by Amanda Gorman

Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem tells the empowering story of a young girl and a diverse group of children who come together to influence change in their community. They realise that their words and actions, big or small, can make a significant difference and inspire others to follow their lead.

The book teaches your students that age is no barrier to making a difference and that their unique voices can bring about positive changes in the world.

Choose Love by Nicola Davies

This is the first of two poetry books for children by Nicola Davies. This collection of poems showing what it’s like to be a refugee was part of a project with the Refugee Trauma Initiative, which gave Nicola Davies real-life stories.

Nicola used those stories to write poems about people who had to leave their homes and migrate to a foreign country. This included the hard journey they had to make, the border controls they had to go through, and not getting a warm welcome when they arrived.

The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley

Yasuhiro finds an injured crane. He helps the bird and watches it fly away. The next night, a mysterious young girl named Hiroko appears at his house. She offers to weave silk fabric to help Yasuhiro’s father, who is struggling to earn money. After selling the silk, her father wants more, and his greed affects their lives. 

The story of The Crane Girl teaches us about friendship, generosity, kindness, greed and how our actions can change lives.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

This is the second of two poetry books for children by Derrick Barnes. A young black boy enters a barbershop as ‘a lump of clay’ and emerges feeling like royalty after his fresh cut. The boy’s newfound confidence demonstrates the significant impact of this simple act on his self-esteem and outlook.

Crown promotes discussions on the importance of self-confidence and self-worth, the role of cultural institutions in shaping identity, and finding joy and transformation in everyday experiences.

The Day War Came by Nicola Davies

This is the second of two poetry books for children by Nicola Davies. A resilient girl navigates a world torn apart by conflict. After being rejected from a school, she finds hope in the empathetic gesture of a young boy – offering her a chair, a place to learn and belong. 

The Day War Came illustrates the harsh realities faced by children impacted by war, highlighting the struggles of immigration, perseverance and courage from resilience.