Essay on Children's Poetry

A Children’s What?

On Jack Prelutsky, the nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate.
By The Editors

The Poetry Foundation inaugurated Jack Prelutsky as the nation’s first “Children’s Poet Laureate” in 2006 at the Pegasus Awards ceremony in Chicago. The award is given to a living poet for a career devoted to the writing of some of the best poetry for the young. The award is also intended to raise awareness among poetry readers and the public that children are naturally receptive to poetry when written especially for them, and that this often is the beginning of a lifelong love of poetry.

Today’s children’s poetry, beautifully illustrated and written with craft and wit, is reaching the best-seller lists. Several children’s poets have sold over a million copies of their books during their lifetime. This is a relatively new phenomenon. In earlier centuries, with the exception of Edward Lear’s nonsense poems and Iona and Peter Opie’s anthology of children’s verse, children’s poetry was an adult venue from which to look nostalgically on childhood. Today, children’s poetry is an art form intended instead for children.

There are several children’s literature awards given in the United States, but only four of these awards are dedicated exclusively to children’s poetry. They are The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Award for Poetry for Children, intended to encourage the excellence and the publication of children’s poetry and to connect teachers and children such poetry; The International Reading Association’s Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award given to a poet who has published no more than two books of children’s poetry; Pennsylvania Center for the Book’s Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children’s Poetry, given for the most outstanding children’s poetry book published in the last year; and The Claudia Lewis Award, given by Bank Street College’s Children’s Book Committee for the best children’s poetry book published that year. Wales has set the international precedent by recently appointing the poet Gwyneth Glyn as its seventh Children’s Poet Laureate.

In inaugurating this award, the Poetry Foundation recognizes the importance of children’s poetry in the larger poetry world. The Poetry Foundation’s study Poetry in America confirms that children who are exposed to a broad array of poetry–from nursery rhymes to Shel Silverstein to Maxine Kumin–are more likely to read poems as adults.

The Children’s Poet Laureate will serve a two-year appointment and will receive a $25,000 cash award. The laureate will also serve as an ambassador between the world of children’s poetry and the culture at large, and will work to acquaint adults and children with the wealth of wonderful children’s poems in the world.

Originally Published: September 21st, 2006
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  1. January 11, 2007

    You call that poetry

  2. January 13, 2007

    In response to both the former comment and John Barr's "Is It Poetry or Is It Verse?"...

    Counting stripes on zebras' backs
    Is harder than it seems
    Should I start with black ones
    Or the white ones in between?
    With all they're running I lose count
    'Cause zebras run so quick
    And counting running zebra stripes
    Can often make me sick

  3. January 29, 2007
     Betty Klemensich

    Is it possible to get the address and email of Jack Prelutsky? We would like to also thank him for allowing Scholastic Book Club to send the free poetry book for each of my students this fall!! THANK YOU AGAIN!!!
    Babbitt Elem.
    Babbitt,MN 55706
    email is

  4. April 5, 2007

    ok where is the poem

  5. June 11, 2007

    Poetry for children is different than poetry for adults. Any reader who does not understand this should read a variety of children's poetry. More than that, try to write a GOOD chidren's poem. It is not easy! It has been an overlooked genre which did not receive the respect it deserves. Thank you Poetry Foundation for creating this award!

    As a second grade teacher, I know how important poetry is in teaching a magnitude of language skills and helping students improve reading fluency. More than that, even the most reluctant reader will reach for a poem book!

    Hail Children's Poets like Jack Pretlusky - every poem they write is a gift for children!

  6. June 12, 2007
     Bob Hamilton

    I just heard on PBS a presentation by the first Children's poet laureate--

    I missed his name--- he uses a guitar and sings his poems to the kids and they just love him and eat up the verse--

    Please tell me his name and his books



  7. June 26, 2007
     Hadassah Tannor

    I am extremely disappointed in Perlusky's "In

    Aunt Giraffe's Green Garden". A fan of his, this

    does not serve him well. I would enjoy knowing

    more about your organization.

  8. September 27, 2007
     MIchelle Ott

    I love Jack Prelutsky.
    I have loved him for years, and I've never read a poem of his to a child who did not delight in his work either. (Plus a bunch of other fun poets whom chilrden read.)

    Yes - he gets them really excited about poetry, but most of them do not read poety into adulthood becuase it's no fun anymore!

    Most poets are writing to impress other poets these days, and it's way too academic. Let's face it, most adults, having turned in their last painful poetry essay duing college, happily slammed the genre shut on their way out the door. They'll gladly buy anthologies for their children, but they never peruse the adult poetry section.

    Recent poet laureates, like Collins, Kooser, and now Simic seem to be more readable, but I think we need to put a whole lot more effort in to Poetry for the Common Man.

    There are some wonderful, accessible poets out there, but we need to get them off the shelves and into the hands of regular folks. Let's carve a niche for the big kids who really want to read (not work) some good poems. The kind that make them say Wow, not What? when they're finished.

    Anybody out there agree with me?????

  9. December 7, 2007
     April Gamble

    Thank you. Mr. Prelutsky, for writing Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens. It is one of the finest and funniest poems I have ever read. I wish you could come watch my class recite it in a chorus.

  10. June 26, 2009

    Please help me with this question :
    Explain in brief language skills that could be developed in association with children's poetry.