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Summer Books and Activities for Kids

Poetry

Poetry

How to explore this theme:

  1. Choose books and book-related activities
  2. Explore more hands-on activities
  3. Try some summer writing
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#1: Choose kids' books and book-related activities Great Fiction & Nonfiction Books

Age Level: 3-6 years old

A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

By: Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by: LeUyen Pham

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Bright illustrations accompany lively poems that celebrate children's imaginations and playing outdoors on warm days. Some games, like 'jacks', may need a bit of explanation but walking on the edges (of sidewalks, curbs, etc.) and hopscotch are perennial favorites. Everyone may be inspired to go outside and play!

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Around the World on Eighty Legs

Around the World on Eighty Legs

By: Amy Gibson | Illustrated by: Daniel Salmieri

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Silly poems introduce real animals from around the world. The lively language and accompanying comic illustrations help place animals — from the agoutis to the yak — on a map and concludes with a "menagerie of facts" — sure to delight readers of all ages!

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Arroz con Leche

Arroz con Leche

By: Lulu Delacre

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

These traditional rhymes and songs from Latin America are presented in both English and Spanish. Gentle illustrations accompany the short verses, and show both cities and the countryside. Children and adults from Spanish-speaking backgrounds will recognize many of these fun songs and rhymes.

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Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

By: Paul Janeczko | Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Seasons are celebrated from spring when "Rain beats down,/roots stretch up…" to a cold winter night as "A welcome mat of moonlight/on the floor…" entices a child to snuggle in a warm bed. Accessible, jewel-toned illustrations add setting and movement to a wide range of appealing and very short poems.

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How Far Do You Love Me?

How Far Do You Love Me?

By: Lulu Delacre | Illustrated by: Lulu Delacre

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A warm portrait of universal parental love begins on a beach when a boy asks his mother, "How far do you love me?" Lyrical responses combine with stunning double page illustrations in places around the globe until the boy is tucked into bed with his response: "I love you to the moon!" A world map and the query in each language conclude this tender book.

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Max & Ruby's Treasure Hunt

Max & Ruby's Treasure Hunt

By: Rosemar Wells

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Rain spoils Max and Ruby (and friends) outdoor plans but their clever grandmother's treasure hunt more than makes up for it. Clues in the form of traditional rhymes are numbered, hidden beneath small but sturdy flaps as well as in spot art are sure to make this a modern classic.

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Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

By: Monica Brown | Illustrated by: Julie Paschkis

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Neftali always loved nature and words. This fondness allowed Neftali — better known as Pablo Neruda — to create poetry in a "voice [that] was heard across nations and ocean." Rich language and lush illustrations that incorporate words in Spanish and English are sure to enthuse young writers while introducing this Nobel-winning poet.

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Pio Peep! Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes

Pio Peep! Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes

By: Alma Flor Ada, Isabel Campoy | Illustrated by: Vivi Escriva

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Rhymes from Spanish speaking countries are presented in Spanish and recreated in English to form a bilingual collection, with attention to the sounds and patterns of both languages. Vivid illustrations complete this appealing book.

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Rhymes Round the World

Rhymes Round the World

By: Kay Chorao

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Children everywhere enjoy similar things, celebrated here in rhymes from around the world. Some are traditional while others are by credited authors; each is accompanied by soft illustrations until it's time to say good night (in many languages).

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Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes

Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes

By: Roseanne Thong | Illustrated by: John Parra

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Circles, squares, triangles, ovals and stars are all around! The rhyming text incorporates Spanish words which are defined in illustrations reminiscent of folk art. A glossary of Spanish words concludes this engaging glimpse into Mexican culture.

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Sing a Song of Popcorn:  Every Child's Book of Poems

Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child's Book of Poems

By: Beatrice Shenk De Regniers | Illustrated by: Margot Zemach

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Illustrations by nine Caldecott Medal artists are as varied in style and tone as the poems in this handsome, themed and well-organized collection of poetry.

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Sports! Sports! Sports! A Poetry Collection

Sports! Sports! Sports! A Poetry Collection

By: Lee Bennett Hopkins | Illustrated by: Brian Floca

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Can a poem capture the excitement, exhilaration, or anguish of defeat when playing sports? The poems here do all that and more! It's an easy-to-read collection that's illustrated with just the right light touch.

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Stripes of All Types

Stripes of All Types

By: Susan Stockdale | Illustrated by: Susan Stockdale

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Stripes are found in nature in a variety of flora and fauna in many habitats. From exotic to domestic, revel in observing stripes in carefully crafted illustrations and lyrical text. Additional information and a playful call to match animal with stripe ends this handsome volume.

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There Was a Tree

There Was a Tree

By: Rachel Isadora

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Textured borders contain each double-page illustration which places the familiar cumulative song on an African savannah. Rebuses are included in the body of the book and again in a key; music is also included to make this version ideal for sharing.

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Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems

Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems

By: Kristine George | Illustrated by: Kate Kiesler

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Share the sights, sounds, smells, and humor of a family camping trip through this collection of engaging poems illustrated with vivid paintings. From setting up the tent to the ultimate return home, campers and non-campers alike will enjoy this vacation and all its outdoor pleasures.

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Weather: Poems for All Seasons

Weather: Poems for All Seasons

By: Lee Bennett Hopkins | Illustrated by: Melanie Hall

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

From the catchy nonsense of X. J. Kennedy's 'Snowflake Souffle' to the simple, surprising imagery of Valerie Worth's 'Sun' to Hopkins's own onomatopoeic 'Thunder,' the short lines, satisfying rhyme, and physicalness of the words can lure beginning readers — and also younger listeners — to the joy of sounds that make sense.

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You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together

By: Mary Ann Hoberman | Illustrated by: Michael Emberley

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Rhyming tales written for two voices makes an ideal — and humorous — introduction to readers' theater. Well known fairy tales have been adapted, reorganized and reinvigorated with lively language and sprightly illustrations, worthy of many dramatizations.

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Age Level: 6-9 years old

A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems

A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems

By: Deborah Ruddell | Illustrated by: Joan Rankin

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

A range of forest inhabitants are presented imaginatively in a variety of poetic styles. From the "Bucktoothed Cleaver" (a beaver) to the chipmunks that invest in the "Acorn Savings Bank," poetry and illustrations allow readers to see animals afresh.

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And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon

And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon

By: Janet Stevens, Susan Stevens Crummel

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

What would happen if the dish and the spoon (of "hey diddle diddle" fame) ran away and didn't want to come back? Well, that's the premise of this funny, pun-filled saga. Other nursery rhyme characters follow a map to find the runaways in this lively, visually sophisticated, and humorous book.

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At the Sea Floor Cafe: Odd Ocean Critter Poems

At the Sea Floor Cafe: Odd Ocean Critter Poems

By: Leslie Bulion | Illustrated by: Leslie Evans

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Poems introduce sea creatures and their habitats using different poetic forms (e.g., concrete, for two voices). Factual information is provided with each poem. This small, attractive collection concludes with where to find out more and a brief explanation of the poetic forms.

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BookSpeak! Poems about Books

BookSpeak! Poems about Books

By: Laura Salas | Illustrated by: Josee Bisaillon

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sophisticated readers will appreciate the themes of the poems presented in this large, attractively illustrated collection of poems. In varied forms, each poem celebrates books and reading and the pleasure it brings even to "The End/…an invitation back/to the beginning."

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Dear Hot Dog

Dear Hot Dog

By: Mordicai Gerstein

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Engaging poems combine with lighthearted illustrations to celebrate the stuff of which a child's day is made from toothbrush to scissors, from crayons to hot dogs, and more.

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Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout

Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout

By: Paul Janeczko | Illustrated by: Chris Raschka

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The team who created A Kick in the Head (2005) presents another appealing collection of poems in varied forms and from different time periods. All these poems shout to be shared aloud while illustrations deserve multiple looks.

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From the Bellybutton of the Moon and other Summer Poems/Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano

From the Bellybutton of the Moon and other Summer Poems/Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano

By: Francisco Alarcón | Illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The poet remembers summers growing up in Mexico in poems presented in both English and Spanish. Readers meet his family and join them in the everyday joys of the sunny season. Illustrations are as colorful and evocative as the words.

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Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys

By: Bob Raczka | Illustrated by: Peter Reynolds

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

If you thought that haiku was a staid poetic form, then you haven't come across this collection! Boys and all things boy are presented for each of the four seasons. Sprinkled throughout are humorous line drawings that extend the light tone.

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Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color

Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color

By: Mary O'Neill | Illustrated by: John Wallner

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Evocative poems explore a rainbow of color and emotion in vivid language, satisfying rhythm and handsome illustrations.

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Harlem

Harlem

By: Walter Dean Myers | Illustrated by: Christopher Myers

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Experienced readers will enjoy this stunning and sophisticated visit to Harlem in word and image. Landmarks like the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater are included and invite discussion.

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I've Lost My Hippopotamus

I've Lost My Hippopotamus

By: Jack Prelutsky | Illustrated by: Jackie Urbanovic

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Humorous, sometimes slightly gross, always kid-friendly poems are accompanied by lighthearted black and white sketches. A range of readers, from sophisticated to those less initiated, are sure to find chuckles in this thick but accessible collection of short, rhythmic poems.

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Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions

Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions

By: Janet Wong | Illustrated by: Julie Paschkis

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Original poems combine with stunning illustrations reminiscent of folk art, to explore superstitions and superstitious beliefs from black cats to knocking on wood — and lots more. An author's note with a bit of information about superstitions concludes this engaging book.

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Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word

Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word

By: Bob Raczka | Illustrated by: Nancy Doniger

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

A short poem made from the word "Lemonade," is difficult to read with letters dropped from the first word. Turn the page, however, and the poem is easily readable: "made/one/ad/added/one/lemon/load/and/one/mom". Squeezing a poem out of one word is fun, playful, and downright clever.

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Let's Celebrate: Festival Poems from Around the World Let's Celebrate: Festival Poems from Around the World

Let's Celebrate: Festival Poems from Around the World Let's Celebrate: Festival Poems from Around the World

By: Debjani Chatterjee , Brian D'Arcy | Illustrated by: Shirin Adl

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Animated illustrations and a variety of poems from around the world celebrate well and lesser known occasions. From Arbor Day to Diwali, from Pancake Day to Purim — and lots in between — readers are introduced to a range of poets and poetic forms in this appealing book.

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Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse

By: Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by: Josee Masse

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Everyone knows that there are two sides to every story. Read a cleverly illustrated poem one way for one side; read the same poem in reverse and learn the other. Well known fairy tales are presented through reversible poems sure to intrigue sophisticated readers of all ages. Each book comes with a CD, so pop it in and follow along!

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Monumental Verses

Monumental Verses

By: J. Patrick Lewis

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Stunning color photographs and poems combine to pay homage to some of the "world's enduring man-made constructions" while introducing a range of poetic forms. The result is a memorable collection of visual art, information, and literary art sure to stand up to multiple examinations.

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Princess Tales: Once Upon a Time in Rhyme with Seek-and-Find Pictures

Princess Tales: Once Upon a Time in Rhyme with Seek-and-Find Pictures

By: Grace Maccarone | Illustrated by: Gail de Marcken

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ten princess tales are retold in verse accompanied by highly detailed illustrations that encourage close examination. The lush illustrations place princesses in unique settings, affirming their universal appeal. "The Princess and the Frog", for example, is set in China; the princess whose sleep is disturbed by a single pea under many mattresses appears in an African county.

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Summersaults

Summersaults

By: Douglas Florian

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Short poems and child-like illustrations framed on brilliantly white pages capture the splendor ("Morning glories/Campfire stories") and sorrow of summer ("Skinned knees/Ninety degrees"). Readers will readily relate to all aspects of summer, seen in a short poem for the end of summer: "Three words/Most cruel:/Back to school."

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Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo

Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo

By: Linda Sue Park | Illustrated by: Istvan Banyai

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Like haiku, sijo — a little known, brief poetic form from Korea — looks at everyday activities from breakfast to the weather. Sophisticated illustrations complement the seemingly simple language to delight readers and listeners.

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The Dream Keeper and Other Poems

The Dream Keeper and Other Poems

By: Langston Hughes, Brian Pinkney | Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The great American poet Langston Hughes chose the poems in this classic collection, originally published for young people in 1932.

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The Great Migration: Journey to the North

The Great Migration: Journey to the North

By: Eloise Greenfield | Illustrated by: Jan Spivey Gilchrest

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Between 1915 and 1930, more than a million African Americans...moved to the North including the poet's family. Join the travelers as they seek a better life in a different part of the United States. Rhythmic but not rhyming verse is complemented by evocative illustrations.

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The Year Comes Round: Haiku through the Seasons

The Year Comes Round: Haiku through the Seasons

By: Sid Farrar | Illustrated by: Ilse Plume

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The seasons of a year are presented in realistic illustrations and thoughtful, evocative haikus. A brief note about the form is followed by a final poem: "Earth circles the sun/spinning a tapestry of/days, months, seasons — life."

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Under the Sunday Tree

Under the Sunday Tree

By: Eloise Greenfield | Illustrated by: Amos Ferguson

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Poetry and vibrant paintings in the primitive style by a recognized Bahamian artist create memorable portrayals in this unique collaboration of words and images.

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Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku

Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku

By: Paul Janeczko , J. Patrick Lewis | Illustrated by: Tricia Tusa

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sophisticated readers will appreciate the sly humor and wordplay in the "kissin' cousin of haiku." Senyru focuses on everyday activities (e.g., "Freedom vanishes, as the babysitter arrives… kids are tied in nots") complemented here by comic illustrations.

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World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard Of

World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard Of

By: J. Patrick Lewis | Illustrated by: Anna Raff

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Unique observances for everything from rats to limericks are celebrated in a variety of poems and poetic forms. When combined with comic illustrations, the lighthearted collection is sure to keep readers chuckling from cover to cover.

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Age Level: 9-12 years old

Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies

Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies

By: Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton | Illustrated by: Jim McMullan

Age Level: 9-12 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

A range of poetic styles, some rooted in the authors' family, are shared in this handsome, easily accessible collection. Attractive illustrations are sprinkled throughout, building the joy when the poems are shared, even when listening to the beautifully read CD.

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The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

By: Langston Hughes | Illustrated by: E.B Lewis

Age Level: 9-12 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Dazzling watercolors turn Hughes' short poem into an unforgettable glimpse of African American history and an emotional journey through time. A concluding note details the illustrator's personal connection to the classic poem.

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More great summer resources for parents from Reading Rockets

Read Aloud Tips

Read Aloud Tips

Read aloud every day with your child and talk about what you're reading. These two simple activities help build your child's vocabulary and comprehension skills.

Get tips (In English and 10 other languages) >

Downloadables

Downloadables

Download these colorful ready-to-print lunch box notes, play date cards, and door hangers for the kids in your life.

Download and print >