Poetic Reads & Activities for School Age Kids

Poetry is all about slowing down, paying attention, and learning how to frame everyday experiences differently so that we can see them with new meaning. As frustrating as these days of social distancing are, they do give us the unique opportunity to slow down and pay closer attention to our lives. We couldn’t think of a more fitting time to do a Book Scouts on poetic reads.

Book Scouts is a monthly program designed to introduce kids ages 8-12 to new titles and genres they might enjoy based on their interests. This month, we’re focusing on stories that are written in rhyme or verse, or are about poetry or poets. We’ve compiled a book list below (along with reviews).

We’ve also compiled these hands-on activities to help your kids start writing their own poetry:
Poetry-based activities
Explanation of the different types of poetry
Poetry prompts

All the titles below are available on Tennessee READS in ebook or audiobook formats. (Click here if you’d like help using READS.)


“Garvey’s Choice” by Nikki Grimes
This novel in verse is told from the perspective of middle-schooler, Garvey, who is struggling with his father’s expectations. He knows that his father wishes he were more athletic and participated in sports at school, but Garvey prefers more artistic and educational pursuits. He finds that eating helps him cope with the anxiety that he feels at not living up to his father’s ideas, but then a group of kids begins to bully him for being overweight. Garvey has to make a decision about who he wants to be and how he can express it to his father and peers in a healthy way.

This is a great book for any middle-schooler who is struggling with their own identity. Garvey’s introspective search for an outlet for his insecurities and fears may help kids who are struggling to find their own way too.

Additional Chapter Book Recommendations

“Booked” by Kwame Alexander
“Unbound: A Novel in Verse” by Ann E. Burg
“Finding Langston” by Lesa Cline-Ransome
“Love That Dog” by Sharon Creech
“Witness” by Karen Hesse
“House Arrest” by K.A. Holt
“May B” by Caroline Starr Rose
“Gone Fishing” by Tamara Will Wissinger



“How to Eat a Poem” edited by American Poetry & Literacy Project, Academy of American Poets
“Dirty Beasts” by Roald Dahl
“His Shoes Were Far Too Tight” by Edward Lear
“Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It” by Gail Carson Levine
“Good Sports” by Jack Prelutsky
“God Got a Dog” by Cynthia Rylant



“La Princesa and the Pea” by Susan Middleton Elya
I cannot express how much I love this catchy, bilingual take on the popular fairy tale! The author’s rhymes are elegantly crafted, weaving Spanish and English seamlessly. A note from the illustrator explains the cultural inspiration for the vibrant colors and clothing showcased throughout the book. Beautifully done and worth multiple readings!

“How To Be a Lion” by Ed Vere
Leonard the Lion and his friend, Marianne the Duck, spend lots of time together doing all the things they love: playing, wishing, and writing poems. One day, a group of other lions approaches Leonard and informs him that he can’t be a true lion and be friends with a duck. Leonard and Marianne put their heads together to come up with a plan that will show the lions that there is more than one way to be a lion.

In the same vein as Ferdinand the Bull, Leonard is sensitive, sweet, and thoughtful, not brutish and fierce like the other lions think he should be. He uses the power of poetry to tell the world that he doesn’t have to conform to their ideas of what a lion is like. The empowering message of this little book is to be true to yourself, whatever that looks like.

“Blue Sky, White Stars” by Sarvinder Naberhaus
This gorgeous tribute to our American legacy features stunning illustrations by Kadir Nelson, one of my favorite illustrators. He manages to capture the rugged, sincere beauty of our country and its people in moments small and large. Naberhaus’s text complements the illustrations beautifully while highlighting parallels between our nation’s symbols and values. This patriotic read would be great to share on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, or really any day. It is a wonderful celebration of the diversity and pioneering spirit that Americans are known for.

“Poetree” by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds
Excited about the arrival of spring, Sylvia composes a poem and ties it to a birch tree at the park, “hoping that it doesn’t count as littering if it makes the world more splendid.” The next day, on her way to school, Sylvia finds a different poem tied to the tree, and begins to wonder if the tree could be writing her back. A poetic exchange continues until Sylvia discovers the true author of the poems, along with a new friendship. This is a cute story about how poetry brings people together.

Additional Picture Book Recommendations

“Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty (and others – Iggy Peck, Sophia Valdez, Ada Twist)
“Mother Goose” by Silvia Long
“Everybody’s Awake” by Colin Meloy
“How I Spent My Summer Vacation” by Mark Teague
“If You Dream It” by Cathy Thompson
“If I Were a Mouse” by Karma Wilson

Although your Library’s building is closed for the time being, we remain committed to connecting you with learning and entertainment opportunities! To learn more about our many digital resources, visit the E-Resources tab on our website. Follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

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