Certain Halloween poetry takes me right back to childhood.
Three little ghostesses,
Sitting on postesses,
Eating buttered toastesses.
Greasing their fistesses,
Up to their wristesses,
Oh! What beastesses,
To make such feastesses!
I always preferred fun rhythmic, rhyming poetry, and throwing in a little nonsense made it even better. I still prefer this style of poetry above all others, as do most of our children.
If children read poetry they truly enjoy, it will inspire many of them to create their own poetry.
Encourage them in this! Help them make their own Halloween poetry book, by providing construction paper for the front and back covers of their “book” and tools to decorate with. My personal favorite tools to provide are fun holiday stamps–maybe this has something to do with my own wonderful 1st and 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Elvada Ward, who provided stamps and other materials, plus gave us TIME to READ and CREATE things like this. Because I had time at this early age to read for pleasure (during school even!) and to practice and explore response through writing and art, I always believed that “being creative” was a part of my identity and that I was capable in these areas. What an amazing gift to give a child! (Thank you forever, Miss Elvada!) This was reinforced at home by my parents, which solidified this part of my identity (thank you forever, too, Mom and Dad!).
Give this a try at home by reading some fun Halloween poems together and then setting a stack of paper and markers (and stamps? stickers?) on the table and saying, “What if we tried writing our own Halloween poem together?” It doesn’t have to be a poem; it’s just that poems are nice and short and lend themselves to low-stakes attempts at writing for many children. Maybe you and your child try a simple list poem of types of Halloween candy you like, or of the 5,000 ideas your child has gone through for Halloween costumes since August (or is that just my 3-year old?). It doesn’t have to be perfect or rhyme–in fact, it’s very important that you free yourself and your child from any expectations and just have fun with it.
Okay, now to some actual poetry books to get you going. Before I tell you though, I have to add this important word of advice: Poetry is meant to be performed! That means not only read aloud, but with gusto! Here are some of our favorites.
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, selected by Jack Prelutsky (a wonderful children’s poet) and illustrated by Arnold Lobel (of Frog & Toad fame among his other great books): This book, I just can’t say enough good things about. If you don’t own this one, you should. It’s chock-full of poems about all kinds of topics: nature, seasons, families, friends, holidays, and more. It has some of my favorite Halloween poems, including the anonymously written “Three Little Ghostesses” from the beginning of this post. In general the book is geared toward elementary age, but some of the poems will appeal to younger children, and some to older.
The Walker Book of Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young, also selected by Jack Prelutsky, and illustrated by Marc Brown (of the Arthur books): This one is very similar to the first one except it is geared a little lower (preschool and early elementary), and covers a wide variety of topics, including Halloween and other holidays; there are fewer poems than in the first mentioned and the illustrations are colorful and more cartoon-ish than the Random House version. I got this one for less than $5 at a consignment sale.
A Happy Haunter’s Halloween: Trick-or-Treat was a new find from my son’s school’s Scholastic book fair last fall. Unlike the two mentioned above which are large anthologies (collections), this one is picture book format and only contains poems about Halloween. It has colorful illustrations, and the poems range from silly/funny to slightly creepier. It is quickly becoming a favorite in our house.
This collection, The Scary Book, compiled by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson (illustrated by various illustrators, including Arnold Lobel) contains a great mix of texts. There are spooky (but mostly silly) Halloween poems, jokes, tongue twisters and short stories. I found this one at the library in the folktale area (it contains a couple creepy folktales in the short stories). Best for elementary age.
I’ll share one more: Cobwebs, Chatters and Chills: A Collection of Scary Poems, by Patricia M. Stockland. This one also includes “toolbox tips” to help young readers and writers understand how poems are crafted and how they can create their own. If you have an elementary child who really enjoys writing, this one is a nice guide. Check your library.
If you already own some poetry collections, check them and see if they contain some fun fall or Halloween poems! Also try some good online poetry websites like Ken Nesbitt’s Poetry for Kids or Giggle Poetry. Read (and write!) on!