Growing Reader


Colorful Poetry: 22 Diverse Poetry Picture Books for Kids

by Charnaie Gordon

When choosing books to read with your kids, how often do you reach for poetry books? If you’re like me, not all that often. Which is why I recently set a goal to incorporate more poetry and nursery rhymes into our storytime routine. I have fond memories of enjoying Shel Silverstein’s classic poetry book Where the Sidewalk Ends during my childhood years. Can you believe that book is now 40 years old?

I love poetry because it’s so universal, unique, and accessible to kids. The compact, songlike nature of many poems can make learning language feel almost effortless to children. They don’t even realize how much they’re retaining by reciting a simple nursery rhyme or short poem. Reading poems aloud helps children to practice their volume, pitch, and voice inflection, among other things.

Poetry, like other forms of literature, can also be entertaining, beautiful, and meaningful. Kids are usually immediately drawn to the rhythm and rhyme of poetry. Much like diversity, poetry can provide a mirror for us to see ourselves, and a window into others’ experiences, to help us understand the lives and perspectives of different people.

Here are more than 20 diverse poetry picture books to explore with kids during National Poetry Month and beyond. Enjoy!

  • Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

    by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Kristi Valiant

    This book is beautiful, bright, and cheery, and filled vibrant depictions of dance across many different cultures. When read aloud, the poems reveal a special surprise — the rhythm of each dance is reflected in the meter of the poem. Some of the dances featured include: hip hop, cha-cha, foxtrot, square dance, salsa, two-step, waltz, bhangra (Indian/Pakistan), and more!

    If your children love music, dance, or poetry I'd highly recommend adding this one to your collection! Included with the book is an audio CD that features the author reading each poem set to music.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

  • Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics

    by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López

    This book includes eighteen biographical poems of influential Latinos throughout history. Each person is featured in a beautifully illustrated double-page spread. The back matter includes additional biographical notes and a list of other Latinos for readers to explore and learn about. Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, and Tomás Rivera.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

    by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

    Stunning! That’s the best way I can describe this book. It features twenty poems that celebrate the influence of different poets from Emily Dickinson to Langston Hughes. The exquisitely crafted collage-style illustrations are breathtaking and connect nicely to each poem. This book is a beautiful tribute to both poetry and diversity, and would make a great addition to any home or school library.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Thunder Underground

    by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Josée Masse

    In this book, a young girl and boy go an adventure to explore a variety of things commonly found underground: fossils, subway stations, and buried treasures. Each of the twenty-one poems challenges children to use their imagination and sense of wonder. Readers will find additional notes on each poem in the back of the book.
    (Ages 5 - 10)

  • Fresh-Picked Poetry

    by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Amy Huntington

    This is such a fun, vibrant, and beautiful book! It takes readers on a journey to a lively urban farmers' market. Through a series of short and vivid poems, children will see the process of how food is grown on a farm and how it finally makes its way to our homes. The back matter includes different reasons why people should consider shopping at farmers' markets.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Keep a Pocket in Your Poem

    by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Johanna Wright

    Little readers and aspiring poets will enjoy reading revisions to thirteen classic poems in this highly imaginative book. There are revisions of poems from beloved poets such as Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Jack Prelutsky. The book features a diverse cast of characters throughout.
    (Ages 5 - 10)

  • Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea

    by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

    Twelve lyrical poems provide readers with a glimpse of African American culture and identity. Each poem has a unique message and theme and is accompanied by beautiful brown and gold earth tone illustrations related to broomwheat tea. My favorite poem is entitled "Cherish Me" because it reminds girls to be confident and cherish their natural beauty.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Haiti my country

    by Rogé

    This beautiful book features fifteen poems written by teenaged Haitian schoolchildren. The illustrations of each of the children featured in this book are incredible ... truly! They seem to really capture the spirit of each child. The poems range in topic and include the natural beauty of Haiti, nature, and the earthquake.
    (Ages 9 - 11)

  • A Full Moon Is Rising

    by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Julia Cairns

    Children will enjoy learning about moon celebrations that take place around the world. Each double-page spread focuses on a different location from New York City to South Africa to China. The illustrations provide additional details and the poems are easy to understand for children ages five to ten. In the back of the book readers will find additional information about the different cultures represented. In addition to discussing poetry, this book has a lot to offer for further discussions on culture, geography, and science.
    (Ages 5 - 10)

  • All the Colors of the Earth

    by Sheila Hamanaka

    This beautifully illustrated book celebrates the beauty of diversity to the fullest through engaging, rhyming text. The differences in hair textures and skin color are explored by likening children to different elements of the earth in such a beautiful way. "Children come in all the colors of love," writes Hamanaka. Readers will see children of different ethnicities interacting, playing together, and holding hands. I think this would be a wonderful book to use in multicultural classrooms in schools.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

    by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

    Each poem in this book revolves around the theme of celebrating outdoor play. As a firm believer in the importance of play, I really like this book. The illustrations show children enjoying the great outdoors together — jumping rope, playing basketball, blowing bubbles, and running through the sprinkler. This would be a great resource to use with children during the spring and summer months.
    (Ages 4 - 7)

  • Coconut Kind of Day

    by Lynn Joseph

    Follow a young Trinidadian girl as she brings to life the experiences of living on the Caribbean island of Trinidad through poetry. Told using some words in the native dialect of the Trinidadian people, readers will learn about the girl's daily routine from sunrise to sunset. Some poems are short while others are slightly longer.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Honey, I Love You

    by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

    The main protagonist of this book talks about all the different things that she loves in her life. She loves laughing, dancing, singing, and jumping rope, among other things. A great book that helps show children that sometimes it's the little and simple things that matter most.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • In the Land of Milk and Honey

    by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

    This is the true story of author Joyce Carol Thomas's trip from Oklahoma to California in 1948, when she moved there as a girl with her family. This book is sprinkled with great metaphors and similes, and filled with beautiful poetry. The illustrations really do a great job of showing why California was such a sought after place to live in the 1940s.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

    by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo

    Jazz Day is a wonderful collection of poems based on the famous Esquire magazine photo from 1958. Esquire magazine put the word out to fifty-seven jazz musicians to gather for a photo shoot in Harlem. The entire, rather impressive, event was coordinated by word of mouth. The back matter includes biographies of several of the fifty-seven musicians photographed, an author’s note, a list of additional resources, a bibliography, and a foldout page of Art Kane’s famous photograph.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Jazz

    by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers

    This book takes readers on a jazz journey — from its beginnings in New Orleans to modern day jazz. Each lyrical poem tells a short story of something that contributes to jazz music, culture, or history. There is an introduction in the beginning and the back matter includes a glossary of jazz terms and a jazz timeline.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

  • La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Niños

    by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

    I think re-imagined nursery rhymes and fairy tales like this one are so fun! This book takes several classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes and gives them a wonderful Latino flair. Combining both English and Spanish words, the rhymes are so fun to read aloud and the illustrations really make this book pop. Each is warm, whimsical, and inclusive. The book also includes a glossary.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

  • My Chinatown

    by Kam Mak

    My Chinatown is comprised of fifteen poems that tell the story of a young boy who moves from Hong Kong to America. As the year progresses, the young boy learns to love his new home in Chinatown in New York City just as much as his old home in Hong Kong. Each poem is based on one of the four seasons and provides readers with a glimpse into different traditions of Chinese culture.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • One Leaf Rides the Wind

    by Celeste Mannis, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

    This counting book follows a young Japanese girl as she explores a Japanese garden. Each of the eleven poems begins with a number and introduces children to the numbers 1-10. Older children may enjoy using this book as a tool to help learn the haiku format used in poetry. At the bottom of each page there is additional information about the object displayed on the page and its role within Japanese culture.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

  • Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown

    by Malathi Iyengar, illustrated by Jamel Akib

    This poetry book is SO great! Who knew there were so many beautiful shades of the color brown?! Through colorful poetry and gorgeous pastel illustrations, this book helps encourage young ones to embrace each other's differences while building self-esteem and a healthy self-image.

    The shades of brown include: tan, sienna, topaz, bay, sepia, cocoa, ocher, beige, sandalwood, coffee, adobe, tamarind, spruce, and nutmeg. After reading this book children will likely appreciate the color brown and see what a valuable and beautiful color it is. If you ever hear someone refer to brown as an "ugly" color, please refer them to this book. It's great for children and adults alike.
    (Ages 6 - 11)

  • The Blacker the Berry

    by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

    The Blacker the Berry is a collection of thirteen poems that celebrate the varied shades of skin color among the African American people. Each melodic poem eloquently conveys the beauty of different skin tones and complexions. There are also themes of family, traditions, feelings, self-love, and acceptance echoed throughout this book. Highly recommended for home and school libraries.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

  • The Sun Is So Quiet

    by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan

    This book boasts beautiful artwork and features a mixture of clever rhymes with free verse poetry. Each poem revolves around different childhood moments like snuggling under the covers, riding in rainbow boats, and preparing for the winter season.
    (Ages 5+)

What other poetry books would you add to this list?