Poetry is beautiful, captivating and (for a lot of us) a little intimidating, right? Our goal with this episode is to show you how simple and delightful sharing poetry with your kids can be.

My guest today says we can’t force poetry, but we can share it naturally… and that just might be the key to helping our kids develop a lifelong love.

If you want to help your kids fall in love with beautiful language, there’s no better (or simpler) way to start than with a poem.

Don’t miss our booklist of favorite poetry to read aloud—it’s a good one! Scroll down to see the clickable list’s book covers, or pop your email in below to get the printable version.

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FAVORITE POETRY

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In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • why and how to incorporate poetry into your routine
  • what to do if you feel intimidated
  • how to develop a true affection for poetry (it’s more fun than you think!)

Listener Guide

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast:

1:34Question: What do you do if your kids skim books?
3:27Read aloud … together
6:00Step down the reading level
7:53Meet Sally Thomas
8:34Why poetry?
11:10The habit of attention
14:21How and when to begin poetry
17:14‘Poetry as Enchantment’
19:18Weaving in poetry
23:15Enjoying poems yourself
25:26Copywork and memorization
29:43Favorite resources
31:07Let the kids speak

Links from this episode:

Quotes to remember:

“We really hamstring ourselves when we think poetry’s got to be serious, exalted, or that we’ve got to ‘teach’ it.” – Sally Thomas

“Memorized poems are a tiny bit of beauty tucked into your pocket. Your kids can pull it out anytime and look at it.”  – Sarah Mackenzie

“A lot of people are afraid to trust the surface of the poem, because they’ve been taught that it’s just a mask for something else—that you haven’t really ‘understood’ the poem until you’ve taken the mask off. But it’s not like you’ve missed the point. If you just read the surface, you’ve still gotten it.” – Sally Thomas

Books from this episode:

Mentioned in Episode 140
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups

**Description from Amazon: The instant New York Times bestseller featured on NPR's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon! B. J. Novak (bestselling author of The Book With No Pictures) described this groundbreaking poetry collection as "Smart and sweet, wild and wicked, brilliantly funny--it's everything a book for kids should be."...

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Marguerite, Go Wash Your Feet

Marguerite, Go Wash Your Feet

**Description from Amazon: A collection of amusing verses by a variety of poets, including Emily Dickinson, Spike Milligan, Shakespeare, and others. "The illustrations contain caricatures, puns, ridiculous juxtapositions, and frequent references to other artists . . . Just identifying the various characters can furnish hours ...

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The Rattle Bag

The Rattle Bag

**Description from Amazon: Edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, and conceived of as a collection of their own favourite poems, The Rattle Bag has established itself as the classic anthology of our time. Heaney and Hughes have brought together an inspired and diverse selection, ranging from undisputed masterpieces to rare d...

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Recommended Poetry Anthologies:

Poetry Anthologies
Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and Girls

Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and Girls

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Over 700 classic and modern poems written by poets from William Shakespeare to J. R. R. Tolkien, Emily Dickinson to Langston Hughes, and covering a range of favorite topics—pets, playtime, family, nature, and nonsense—ensure that there’s a poem to please every child.

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The Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry

The Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry

FROM THE PUBLISHER

A collection of poems about innocence, animals, famous people, and holidays by such authors as William Blake, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, and David McCord.

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A Child’s Book of Poems

A Child’s Book of Poems

FROM THE PUBLISHER

William Blake, Kate Greenaway, Emily Dickinson: the writers in this charming anthology of 200 poems—first published in 1969—are among literature’s most beloved. And Gyo Fujikawa’s appealing illustrations depict children of all races sweetly interacting, as well as an engagingly rendered menagerie of animals and the natural world in all its wonderment.

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The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems

FROM THE PUBLISHER

This collection, edited by acclaimed children's author and poet Donald Hall, returns the forgotten treasures of American children's poetry.

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National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Lovingly selected by U.S. Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and paired with vibrant animal photography, this collection of poems is an exuberant celebration of the animal kingdom and a beautiful introduction to this genre of literature.

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Winter Poems

Winter Poems

FROM THE PUBLISHER

The illustrations of a Caldecott Medalist are combined with a seasonal selection of poems by twenty-five celebrated writers including William Shakespeare, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Richard Wright, and Edgar Allen Poe.

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The Random House Book of Poetry for Children

The Random House Book of Poetry for Children

FROM THE PUBLISHER

The Random House Book of Poetry for Children offers both funny and illuminating poems for kids personally selected by the nation's first Children's Poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky.

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The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Toast a marshmallow, be a tree in winter, read braille — Paul B. Janeczko and Richard Jones invite you to enjoy an assortment of poems that inform and inspire.

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Recommended Poetry Collections by a Single Author:

Poetry Collections by a Single Author
Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons

Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons

$19.99

you gasp as I roar, my mane exploding, sizzling― lion of the sky! Haiku meet riddles in this wonderful collection from Laura Purdie Salas. The poems celebrate the seasons and describe everything from an earthworm to a baseball to an apple to snow angels, alongside full-color illustrations.

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Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths

$17.99

A new book of unique reversible poems based on Greek myths from the creator of Mirror Mirror     What happens when you hold up a mirror to poems about Greek myths? You get a brand-new perspective on the classics! And that is just what happens in Echo Echo, the newest collection of reverso poems fr...

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A Child’s Garden of Verses

A Child’s Garden of Verses

$19.99

Here is a delightful look at childhood, written by master poet and storyteller Robert Louis Stevenson. In this collection of sixty-six poems, Stevenson recalls the joys of his childhood, from sailing boats down a river, to waiting for the lamplighter, to sailing off to foreign lands in his imaginati...

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Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year

$40.00

Sing a Song of Seasons is a lavishly illustrated collection of 366 nature poems — one for every day of the year. Filled with familiar favorites and new discoveries written by a wide variety of poets, including William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, John Updike, Langston Hughes, N. M. Bodecker, Okam...

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Flower, moon, snow: A book of haiku
Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face: And Other Poems: Some of the Best of Jack Prelutsky

Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face: And Other Poems: Some of the Best of Jack Prelutsky

$22.99

When you're in the world of Jack Prelutsky, anything can happen. Ogres run wild, dragons sing, and baby uggs hatch. . . . Frogs wear red suspenders in a rainstorm of pigs and noodles. . . . Scranimals gallivant under a pizza the size of the sun. . . . Even the new kid on the block can see that the n...

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When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons

A book of poetry your young ones will love! Julie Fogliano's perfect (and perfectly short) poems are just the right kind to tuck into your pocket throughout the seasons.

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One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

$18.99

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Inspired by the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses The Golden Shovel poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of master poets like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jean Toomer, and others who enriched history during this era.

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Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings

$19.99

Shel Silverstein, the New York Times bestselling author of The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Every Thing On It, has created a poetry collection that is outrageously funny and deeply profound. Come in . . . for where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein's world begins. You'll mee...

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A Light in the Attic Special Edition with 12 Extra Poems

A Light in the Attic Special Edition with 12 Extra Poems

$19.99

From New York Times bestselling author Shel Silverstein, the creator of the beloved poetry collections Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up, and Every Thing On It, comes an imaginative book of poems and drawings—a favorite of Shel Silverstein fans young and old. This special edition contains 12 n...

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Falling Up

Falling Up

$19.99

From New York Times bestselling author Shel Silverstein, the classic creator of Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Every Thing On It, comes a wondrous book of poems and drawings.Filled with unforgettable characters like Screamin’ Millie; Allison Beals and her twenty-five eels; Dann...

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Every Thing On It

Every Thing On It

$19.99

From New York Times bestselling Shel Silverstein, celebrated creator of Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up, comes an amazing collection of never-before-published poems and drawings.Have you ever read a book with everything on it? Well, here it is! You will say Hi-ho for th...

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A Full Moon Is Rising

A Full Moon Is Rising

$12.95

A children's book takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the world to discover an amazing collection of full moon celebrations, beliefs, customs, and facts. We'll visit India, Israel, Morocco, China, Australia, and many more places.

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Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson

Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson

FROM THE PUBLISHER

See the beauty and magic of the everyday world through the eyes of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s best-loved and most renowned poets.

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Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou

Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Award-winning writer, historian, and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou is a true American icon. Twenty-five of her finest poems capture a range of emotions and experiences, from the playful “Harlem Hopscotch” to the prideful “Me and My Work” to the soul-stirring “Still I Rise.” Award-winning artist Jerome Lagarrigue masterfully illustrates each verse.

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Little Poems for Tiny Ears

Little Poems for Tiny Ears

$7.99

"Original poems celebrate everyday discoveries in this sweet collection perfect for reading to babies and toddlers." - Seira Wilson, Amazon Editor The dynamic, best-selling team of Lin Oliver and Tomie dePaola have created a charming collection of baby poems that makes the perfect gift for baby sho...

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Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations

Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations

$16.99

Poetry + Math + Science = A new way of looking at springMath meets metaphor in this eye-opening exploration of spring. Each clever equation is a tiny, perfect poem that prompts readers to look at the ordinary and see the miraculous. Can you look at an egg in a nest and see a jewelry box? How are sun...

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Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (Junior Library Guild Selection)

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (Junior Library Guild Selection)

$17.99

     In this outstanding picture book collection of poems by Newbery Honor-winning poet, Joyce Sidman (Song of the Water Boatman, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night), discover how animals stay alive in the wintertime and learn about their secret lives happening under the snow. Paired with...

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Once Around the Sun

Once Around the Sun

$16.00

Children don't need a calendar to tell them which season it is. Every month has its own distinct clues, like in September "when yellow pencils / in brand-new eraser hats / bravely wait on perfect points." In a dozen unforgettable poems, this fresh yet nostalgic collection captures the excitement of ...

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Poetry for Young People: Robert Louis Stevenson

Poetry for Young People: Robert Louis Stevenson

$6.95

Best-known for his books Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson also wrote some of the most beloved children’s poems in the world. Captured in this beautifully-illustrated volume, here is a selection of Stevenson’s wonderful poems that...

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Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost

Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost

$6.95

Use all your senses—not just your eyes—when you read Robert Frost’s remarkable poems. Your own world will quickly melt away as Frost draws you into winter wonderlands, forests, and fields. More than twenty-five of the Pulitzer-Prize winner’s best-loved poems are included, along with stunning...

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Poetry for Young People: Walt Whitman

Poetry for Young People: Walt Whitman

$6.95

Sit back and travel the universe through the imagination of Walt Whitman. From the depths of the sea to the far reaches of the cosmos, from the songs of America’s workers to the plight of America’s slaves, you’re about to embark on an experience you’ll never forget! More than twenty-five of ...

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Poetry for Young People: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Poetry for Young People: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

$6.95

Children instinctively love poetry, with its appealing mixture of rhythm and rhyme. And Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with his suspenseful narrative verse, deceptively simple structure, and powerful images of 19th-century United States, makes an especially suitable subject for the critically acclaimed...

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Poetry for Young People: Carl Sandburg

Poetry for Young People: Carl Sandburg

$6.95

Travel around the United States with Carl Sandburg, the twentieth-century poet who has been called the voice of America. Visit rural back roads and busy cities, and meet friendly animals and ordinary people going about their daily lives. More than thirty of his wonderful poems are presented here, al...

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Poetry for Young People: Edward Lear

Poetry for Young People: Edward Lear

$6.95

Utterly delightful to read aloud, and for parent and child to share, Edward Lear's humorous verses shine with irrepressible joy and rhythm. Filled with exuberantly nonsensical made-up words (like "Scroobius Pip" and "pobble"!) that tickle the funny bone, his work gives free rein to youthful imaginat...

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Recommended Picture Books of a Single Poem:

Picture Books of a Single Poem
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Ever since it was published in 1978, the picture-book presentation of Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" has been an enduring favorite. For this special edition with a new design, trim size, and three new spreads, Susan Jeffers has added more detail and subtle color to her sweeping backgrounds of frosty New England scenes.

More info →
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Before Morning

Before Morning

FROM THE PUBLISHER

In a spare text that reads as pure song and illustrations of astonishingly beautiful scratchboard art, Sidman and Krommes remind us that sometimes, if spoken from the heart, wishes really can come true.

More info →
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My People

My People

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Langston Hughes's spare yet eloquent tribue to his people has been cherished for generations. Now, acclaimed photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. interprets this beloved poem in vivid sepia photographs that capture the glory, the beauty, and the soul of being a black American today.

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Poetree

Poetree

FROM THE PUBLISHER

A girl writes a poem to a tree, but then is surprised when the tree writes back in this wondrous and warm picture book about friendship, nature, and the power of poetry.

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Sing a Season Song

Sing a Season Song

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Jane Yolen's lilting verses and Lisel Jane Ashlock's sensitive portraits convey the cyclical nature of the seasons in this poetic tribute to the characteristics of the four periods of the year.

More info →
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The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

FROM THE PIUBLISHER

Langston Hughes has long been acknowledged as the voice, and his poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, the song, of the Harlem Renaissance.  Although he was only seventeen when he composed it, Hughes already had the insight to capture in words the strength and courage of black people in America.

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That Is My Dream!: A picture book of Langston Hughes’s “Dream Variation”

That Is My Dream!: A picture book of Langston Hughes’s “Dream Variation”

FROM THE PUBLISHER

“Dream Variation,” one of Langston Hughes's most celebrated poems, about the dream of a world free of discrimination and racial prejudice, is now a picture book stunningly illustrated by Daniel Miyares, the acclaimed creator of Float.

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When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Whitman's wise words are beautifully recast by New York Times #1 best-selling illustrator Loren Long to tell the story of a boy's fascination with the heavens.

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Casey At the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888

Casey At the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Christopher Bing's magnificent version of this immortal ballad of the flailing 19th-century baseball star is rendered as though it had been newly discovered in a hundred-year-old scrapbook.

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I Carry Your Heart with Me

I Carry Your Heart with Me

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Showing the strong bond of love between mother and child, within nature and throughout life, Cummings’ heartfelt words expressed through McDonough’s lovely illustrations combine to create a fresh, yet classic, portrayal of love.

More info →
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The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Owl sets out to woo Pussycat in a boat laden with fruit from their Caribbean island and with a guitar at his side, ready for serenading. Jan Brett brings the magic of the Caribbean to her exquisitely detailed illustrations of Edward Lear's charming poem.

More info →
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Recommended Picture Book Biographies about Poets:

Picture Book Biographies: Poets
Emily

Emily

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

From Michael Bedard and two-time Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Barbara Cooney comes a story about American poet Emily Dickinson and the young girl who befriends her.What if your neighbor were the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson?

More info →
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Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost

Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

When Robert Frost was a child, his family thought he would grow up to be a baseball player. Instead, he became a poet. His life on a farm in New Hampshire inspired him to write "poetry that talked," and today he is famous for his vivid descriptions of the rural life he loved so much.

More info →
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Phillis’s Big Test

Phillis’s Big Test

$16.00

In 1773, Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry. It was a great accomplishment that made her very famous.Only a year before, Phillis had had to take a test to prove that she was the actual author of these poems, because Phillis Wheatley was a slave.Who would believe that an African girl could b...

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Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

$17.99

Once there was a little boy named Neftalí who loved wild things wildly and quiet things quietly. From the moment he could talk, he surrounded himself with words. Neftalí discovered the magic between the pages of books. When he was sixteen, he began publishing his poems as Pablo Neruda. Pablo wrote...

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Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings

$17.95

Enormous Smallness is a nonfiction picture book about the poet E.E. cummings. Here E.E.'s life is presented in a way that will make children curious about him and will lead them to play with words and ask plenty of questions as well. Lively and informative, the book also presents some of Cummings's ...

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Imagine

Imagine

$16.99

A buoyant, breathtaking poem from Juan Felipe Herrera — brilliantly illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Lauren Castillo — speaks to every dreaming heart.Have you ever imagined what you might be when you grow up? When he was very young, Juan Felipe Herrera picked chamomile flowers in windy fields an...

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16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow”

16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow”

$17.99

This simple nonfiction picture book about the beloved American poet William Carlos Williams is also about how being mindful can result in the creation of a great poem like "The Red Wheelbarrow"--which is only sixteen words long."Look out the window. What do you see? If you are Dr. William Carlos Wil...

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