What Poems Should I Read My Kids?

Kids have more imaginative minds than we give them credit for — and believe it or not, sometimes they have an easier time interpreting complex imagery than even we do. For that reason, there’s really no “bad” poem to read your kids. Maybe put down Edgar Allen Poe for a few minutes before bed, but in general your best judgement will usually do the trick. That said, here are one or two of our very favorites.

“The Crocodile” was written by Lewis Carroll, a poet who lived from 1832-1898 — and proof that oldies can still be goodies. This strange poem provides a gentle aura to creatures that are usually terrifying.

How doth the little crocodile

     Improve his shining tail,

And pour the waters of the Nile

     On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,

     How neatly spreads his claws,

And welcomes little fishes in,

     With gently smiling jaws!

Here are a couple stanzas from Edward Hirsch’s “Fall,” a poem about seasonal change. We strongly recommend sharing this one over a mug of hot chocolate on a cool autumn day. Hirsch’s ability to set the mood of fall is exemplary by nearly any measure of the written word.

Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season 

Changes its tense in the long-haired maples 

That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves 

Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition 

With the final remaining cardinals) and then 

Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last 

Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground. 

At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees 

In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager

And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever 

Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun 

Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance, 

A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud 

Blamelessly filling the space with purples.