Category: News

Poems Now Sorted by Reading Level

There are always at least 100 funny poems for kids on, which you have always been able to choose from based on their popularity or subject matter. Now I’ve also added the ability to select poems based on their reading level.

To view the poems on organized by reading level, simply click on Poems by Reading Level in the menu. My hope is that this will help make it easier for teachers to select poems at an appropriate reading level for their students.

The poems are sorted by grade level based on their ATOS readability score, the reading level system used by the Accelerated Reader program. Because these scores are computer generated, they may not be 100% accurate, but should still make it easier to find poems suitable for students of any given age.

Once you select a poem, you can always find out more about it’s grade level measures and text statistics (number of words, number of lines, average word length, etc.) by scrolling down to the bottom of the poem’s page.

TIME for Kids 2014 Poetry Contest Winners

TIME for Kids 2014 Poetry Contest Winners

Illustration by Deam Macadam for TFK

Congratulations to the winners of the 2014  TIME for Kids Poetry Contest! I had so much fun reading all the entries and selecting the winners, plus a few “honorable mentions.” There were over 2100 entries this year; the most ever!

The grand-prize winning poem this year was by 10-year-old Benjamin Ecsedy. His poem “Mess” was absolutley wonderful. His prizes include a free autographed copy of my book The Armpit of Doom and a free online author visit for his class.

In addition to Benjamin’s wonderfully funny poem, the runner-up winners were “Stranded in Paradise” by 14-year-old John Vernaglia, “My Elephant” by 10-year-old Maddy Harmon, and “Expelled” by 12-year-old Ella Smith.

You can read all of the winners, plus several honorable mentions on the TIME for Kids website, and in TIME for Kids Magazine.

A big congratulations to all of the winners and honorable mentions, and to all of the kids who took the time to write a poem and submit it. If I could have, I would have picked a hundred winners. There were at least that many poems that were true winners in my eyes.

My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes

Here is the brand new animated video for the poem “My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes,” from the book Revenge of the Lunch Ladies.

I visit a lot of schools every year, and every once in a while I meet a student whose mother is a teacher at the school. Once I even met a boy who’s father was the Principal! And I always wondered what kinds of funny things might happen to a student whose mother was also his or her teacher. Here’s one thing I think might happen.

Rhyming Musical Instruments and Terms

If you ever find yourself writing a poem that involves music, especially a list poem, you may find it helpful to have a list of musical instruments and musical terms that rhyme with one another. Here are some common ones that you could use:

  • Autoharp / harp / sharp
  • Bach / rock
  • Band / baby grand / band stand / grand / music stand
  • Bang / clang / rang / sang
  • Baritone / microphone / saxophone / tone / trombone / xylophone
  • Bass / instrument case
  • Blare / snare
  • Bong / gong / singalong / song
  • Cacophony / euphony / key of C / symphony / tympani
  • Castanet / clarinet / cornet / duet / minuet / quartet
  • Chime / rhyme / time
  • Choir / lyre
  • Chord / record / musically scored
  • Clap / rap / tap
  • Cymbal / timbal
  • Drum / harmonium / hum / strum
  • Flat / high hat / rat-a-tat / scat
  • Flute / lute / toot
  • Glide / elide
  • Group / music loop / troupe
  • Guitar / rock star / sitar
  • Hear / play by ear
  • Juke / uke
  • Mandolin / violin
  • Nat King Cole / rock-n-roll
  • Note / throat
  • Piano / soprano
  • Pianola / Victrola / viola
  • Psalm / tom
  • Ring / sing / string / swing

Click here for other lists of rhyming words.


Poetry Aloud Here 2: Sharing Poetry with Children

Poetry Aloud Here 2: Sharing Poetry with Children

If you are a teacher, librarian, or other adult who uses children’s poetry as an educational tool, Poetry Aloud Here 2: Sharing Poetry with Children by Sylvia M. Vardell is a book you need to know about. This outstanding resource provides educators with tons of practical information on teaching poetry in both formal and informal settings, including including how and why to promote poetry to children, strategies for presenting poetry to kids, what kinds of poems children enjoy, biographies of many important children’s poets, follow-up activities, web resources, and so much more.

This revamped and expanded edition of the original Poetry Aloud Here! details best practices gleaned from years in the field, with numerous suggestions that cross the curriculum from literature to science and math, and includes expanded lists of poems, in-depth poet profiles, book-poetry pairings, and other tools useful for programming and collection development.

About the Author

Sylvia M. Vardell is currently Professor at Texas Woman s University in the School of Library and Information Studies, where she teaches graduate courses in children s and young adult literature. She has published articles in Book Links, Language Arts, English Journal, The Reading Teacher, The New Advocate, Young Children, Social Education, and Horn Book, as well as several chapters and books on language and literature. A presenter at many state, regional, national, and international conferences, Vardell organizes the “Poetry Round Up” session at the Texas Library Association conference. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1983.

Where to Buy this Book

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Laura E. Richards, the First American Children’s Nonsense Poet

Laura E. Richards

Laura Elizabeth Howe Richards was an American writer of the late 19th century who published more than 90 books. Born on February 27, 1850, she is best known for the nonsense poems she created for children to enjoy, such as “Eletelephony.”

Laura Richards’ parents were famous before she was born. Her father was Samuel Gridley Howe, who ran the Perkins Institute for the Blind where Helen Keller and Laura Bridgman were educated. (In fact, he named his own daughter after Laura Bridgman.) Her mother, Julia Ward Howe, wrote the words to a famous song called “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” When Laura Richards grew up, she and her sister wrote a biography of their mother that won a Pulitzer Prize.

In addition to writing many poems and works of fiction, Richards was a philanthropist. She was very concerned about finding ways to help the people in the town where she lived with her husband. For example, Richards helped to change the practice of making children work at difficult jobs as if they were adults, which was common at the time.

One of Richards’s best books of nonsense poetry is called Tirra Lirra. The poems in this book use techniques like rhythm, alliteration, and startling imagery to tell an imaginative story.

Here is the poem “Eletelephony,” in which Richards uses several funny and surprising variations on the word “elephant.” This technique gives us the impression that the poet has gotten all tangled up in her words, just like the elephant gets his trunk tangled in the telephone—or was it a telephunk?


Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

We Go Together by Calef Brown

We Go Together: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse by Calef Brown

As Children’s Poet Laureate, one of my jobs is to select a collection of poetry each month to feature on the Poetry Foundation’s website. There you’ll find my monthly book picks, and those of the previous Children’s Poets Laureate. My pick for February, 2014 is We Go Together: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse by Calef Brown.

Interview with Children’s Author and Illustrator Calef Brown

In addition, I interviewed Calef about his life as a poet and about his new book. Here is what he had to say.

How to Write an “I Can’t Write a Poem” Poem

I Can't Write a Poem

Here’s a type of poem that absolutely anybody can write, even if you’re sure that you have no idea how to write a poem. That’s because it’s a poem about not being able to write a poem! You won’t even have to think up a title for this poem, since you can use the very first line as the title.

The key to success in writing this type of poem is to let your imagination go wild. Your poem might start off with an ordinary excuse, but as the poem goes on, the excuse can get crazier and crazier.

Here are a few different first lines you could use to begin your poem:

Happy Birthday to Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll Self Portrait Circa 1856

If you have ever read or watched one of the stories about “Alice in Wonderland,” then you know how much fun it is to enjoy the work of Lewis Carroll. This name is the pseudonym, or pen name, of 19th-century author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He used several pseudonyms in his lifetime, but he wrote his most famous poems and stories under the name Lewis Carroll.

When Carroll was growing up, he had a wild imagination and loved telling stories. His favorite hobbies as a boy were putting on puppet shows and magic shows for his siblings. Carroll also put together a family magazine of his poems and talked his family members into contributing other writings to it. When he got older, Carroll also became interested in math and photography, especially portraits of children. One of the children featured in his photographs was a little girl named Alice Liddell, who inspired the Alice in Wonderland stories.

Carroll’s poems were just as imaginative as his Alice stories. In fact, there are two very famous Carroll poems that are found within the Alice stories, as if the characters in Wonderland were composing and reciting them. These poems include “The Walrus and the Carpenter” and “Jabberwocky.” Carroll is also known for a long poem called “The Hunting of the Snark,” which was published in a different book.

“Jabberwocky” tells the story of a young man who fights a terrible creature called the Jabberwock. Try reading this poem out loud. Notice how Carroll used a lot of nonsense words. He left it up to the reader to decide exactly what each nonsense word might mean. Do you think that the sound of each nonsense word (such as “slithy”) helps you to understand the meaning?


‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Over the River and Through the Wood: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century American Children’s Poetry

The following is a guest post written by Karen L. Kilcup, Professor of English, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Angela Sorby, Associate Professor of English, Marquette University. I’m very excited about this new anthology published by Johns Hopkins University Press, so I thought I’d let them tell you about it in their own words.

Over the River and Through the Woods

Who could resist a poem that opens like this:

Have Angleworms attractive homes?
Do Bumble-bees have brains?
Do Caterpillars carry combs?
Do Ducks dismantle drains?

Charles E. Carryl’s “Memorandrums” typifies the animated, modern spirit of our new anthology, Over the River and Through the Wood. We began our project not only because we admire the writing—its ease, its playfulness, its innovation—but also because we realized how many nineteenth-century children’s poems are still vital to Americans—parents and grandparents as well as their children. From the title poem to “Mary’s Lamb” to “’Twas the night before Christmas” (“Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”), many of the verses in Over the River remain part of our collective consciousness, even if we can’t immediately identify the sources. I remember my own grandmother singing “Over the river and through the wood,” though she changed the second line: “To grandmother’s house we go.” Since she prepared the Thanksgiving turkey and mountains of vegetables and pies, I imagine that she felt just fine about this substitution. Our collection includes some other wonderful holiday poems, including one delicious ode to turkey dinner (Cooke’s “Turkey: A Thanksgiving Ode”) and a comic ballad from the bird’s perspective, “The Turkey’s Opinion.” Of course there’s far more to the anthology than holiday poems, but many of the most beloved, familiar pieces live in that section. Many of our poems offer major contributions to America’s literary tradition, including works by authors whom we don’t ordinarily associate with children, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sarah Piatt.

One children’s poem, “Mary’s Lamb” was actually the first sound recording ever made by Thomas Edison; you can listen to a scratchy, slightly later version by Edison here. Sarah Josepha Hale’s famous poem draws from a real story about a girl bringing her pet to the Redstone School, now in Sudbury, Massachusetts. You can visit the school from mid-May through mid-October.