POETRY & SHAKESPEARE: Our Favorite Picture Book Read-alouds

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I read a bit of poetry most days with my three kids ages 12, 10, and 8. We often stick with one poet for 1 or 2 months. We like to read one or two poems from a collection each school day, and add in any picture books I can find of individual poems (love these), as well as poet biographies. We also read from anthologies created just for children. Sometimes instead of poetry we study a Shakespeare play. This list includes only the very best poetry and Shakespeare picture books we have read together. And while all the books below are wonderful and highly recommended, I have starred (*) our very favorites, many of which we purchased to enjoy again and again. We hope you enjoy all these books as much as we have!

This list is continually updated (newest books at the top of each section). 

Maya Angelou

E. E. Cummings


Pablo Neruda

William Carlos Williams

Edward Lear

Some poets should be studied just because there are so many incredible picture books about them or featuring their poetry. Edward Lear is one of those. His silly poems and nonsense words have a ton of appeal for children, but they are so clever and meaningful that adults will find a lot to love as well. In addition to the kids' books below, we also checked out a large volume illustrated by Lear himself. It wasn't my favorite of his poetry volumes (too many poems, not enough illustrations), but we did enjoy looking at his own illustrations of his poems.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Note: In retrospect, I wish I would have waited longer to introduce Tennyson. A huge part of Tennyson's work is about loss and mourning (after the death of a close friend). I ended up reading only some of the Poetry for Young People collection with all three of my kids, and reading additional poems with just my 12yo at other times.

Gwendolyn Brooks


  Find additional information about the books below in this post devoted to Hughes' poetry.

Emily Dickinson

Carl Sandburg

Robert Louis Stevenson

Christina Rossetti Find additional information about the books we used to study Rossetti, see this post.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Other Poets

Poetry Anthologies for Children

Other Poetry-related Picture Books

Poetry for Young People and Poetry for Kids are two series of poetry books for children that we have enjoyed. Poetry for Young People is more appropriate for older elementary and Poetry for Kids is better for middle school and up, in my opinion, but we have enjoyed using both. With Carl Sandburg, for example, we read all of the Poetry for Young People volume but only selections from Poetry for Kids. You might also choose a volume based on the illustrations you like better. Both include biographical information and definitions for unfamiliar words. Poetry for Kids includes explanations about what each poem means in the endnotes (which you may or may not appreciate).

What are your favorites?



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