Essay on Children's Poetry

Lift Every Voice

Poetry takes many forms—including the form YOU give it.
Image of the poet Jacqueline Woodson.

I used to be afraid of poetry. I thought it was some secret code only certain people were supposed to understand… But I know now that poetry belongs to all of us.

I struggled to read as a child. Sometimes, words circled around my brain in confusing ways. So I had to read the same lines over and over until the poem or story or essay became a part of me. And made sense.

This is how one becomes a writer—by reading slowly and re-reading. By studying the way a poet breaks a line or finds a clever rhyme or makes you smile. What words were just used? Hey! How did they do that? Go back and read it again.

Once I was afraid of poetry. I didn’t think it belonged to me. But as I said, poetry belongs to all of us. As Young People’s Poet Laureate, my hope is to share the joy of poetry, to get you to write, speak, think about poetry everyday. Poetry takes many forms—including the form YOU give it.

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) wrote the lyrics/poem for what became The Black National Anthem—“Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This is what I’m hoping to do—to lift every young voice in this country.

Visit this page often. I will be suggesting books and posting videos and poems. My hope is that by the end of my two years as YPPL, each of you will know—no matter who you are or how you read or where you live—that you have a voice. Use it to write some poems. Use it to change the world.

Originally Published: October 7th, 2015

Jacqueline Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio and grew up in Greenville, South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of over 30 books for children and young adults, including From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun (1995), recipient of both the Coretta Scott King Honor and the Jane...

  1. November 10, 2015
     Jenny Green

    Great column -- If you can suggest anywhere to learn form poetry for children, I would be most appreciative.
    Jenny Green
    VCFA (Writing for Children and Young Adults) -- and I had the amazing Rita Williams-Garcia as an advisor

  2. January 1, 2016
     ck

    The best resource for working with children in so many poetic forms is Shirley
    McPhillip's Poetry Central. Go to Stenhouse Publishing and see if they still
    allow you to peek at the book. It is a beautiful gem. A wonderful read that
    combines pleasure and enlightenment.

  3. January 30, 2016
     MUHAMMAD KABIR HUSAIN

    I learn form poetry for children.
    Poems & poets is my heart.
    I am kabir from Bangladesh