Poetry Renaissance

Poetry for primary schools has come of age! Only a few years ago, I would have been scrabbling around looking for new collections other than anthologies or themed collections assembled to accompany curriculum topics. There would have been a handful of poets whose work was published, many excellent poets resorting to picture book publishing as their only avenue.

But that has changed. The poetry scene is as vibrant as ever, with new poets emerging and more established poets having their work reissued or new collections published. There are many factors for this: CLPE has done sterling work in energising its poetry award (the CLiPPA) and the accompanying school programme; more recently, Poetry by Heart has championed the performance of poetry; the UKLA/OU Teachers as Readers survey highlighted teachers’ lack of knowledge about contemporary poets; small presses have led the way in bringing us new poets, Otter-Barry Books, Troika, The Emma Press and most recently Scallywag Press deserve a call out.

National Poetry Day, held on the first Thursday in October, has worked tirelessly to maintain a profile for poetry, but of course, poetry should not be reserved for a single day in the year.

Spring Clean Your Poetry Collections

We’ve looked at our poetry shelves and chosen our favourites to share with you. Poetry has no age. I recall listening to my dad’s recording of The Canterbury Tales read in Middle English, when I was a small child. I didn’t know what it was about, but the rhythm carried me along. I learned the opening lines by heart and then recognised them when I later studied Chaucer at school. I’m not advocating that we read Chaucer to our reception classes, but I use this anecdote simply as a reminder that we take different things from poetry at different ages. Similarly, as a year 6 teacher, I frequently read Ted Hughes nature poems (I wasn’t as keen on his collection for children Meet My Folks). The children’s responses were meaningful and profound, albeit different to the analytical responses from my graduate thesis.

With this caveat, I have put together some suggestions by age group simply to help schools make selections so that children meet a wide variety of poets and forms of poetry throughout their primary years. Please do not feel constrained by these suggestions. You may find something from a different year group that is the very thing you are looking for.

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Poetry for EYFS and Reception

Nursery rhymes are important throughout the early years. Bryant and Bradley’s research into children’s reading problems highlighted the importance of early experience with rhyme. Many nursery rhymes use half rhyme rather than full rhyme, and early exposure to them helps develop an ear for reading and provides the foundation for later phoneme discrimination. Some children may have a rhyme repertoire of up to 500 nursery rhymes when they start school. If you think that sounds like a lot, you’d be surprised at how quickly the bank of rhymes builds. Of course, some have very few, and it’s, therefore, essential that this experience is built in the early years. Our collection includes Allie Esiri’s A Nursery Rhyme for Every Night of the Year illustrated by Emily Faccini. The rhymes are grouped thematically with festivals, weather and seasons featuring. You will find all the traditional rhymes alongside some newer verses, which give a better flavour of Britain’s diverse population. It is a resource for teachers rather than a book for sharing with children, and we recommend it for this purpose. Child-friendly nursery rhyme collections include those by Debi Gliori, Axel Scheffler and Jackie Morris. We also like Katrina Charman’s riff on traditional nursery rhymes: The Whales on the Bus Rumble, Rumble, Dinosaur Car, Car, Truck Sheep and Go Go Pirate Boat. These picture books are brightly coloured with bold illustrations that children will enjoy looking at independently.

Action rhymes are a particular favourite in the early years. They encourage coordination, enhance memory, and promote collective enjoyment. Jane Newbery’s Big Green Crocodile is a fantastic recent collection.

Joseph Coelho’s Blow a Kiss, Catch a Kiss has plenty of join-in qualities; as our reviewer Anne Bradley writes, This poetry book would be an asset to any school, library or home. The wide variety of themes included means you will find a poem to suit occasions. This book can be shared with young children and read by developing readers. Children can join in with actions, sounds, counting and repetition, making it a book that children will want to return to. It also offers a valuable forum for discussing the confusion children can feel about their emotions.

Two collections of original poems for very young children from Michael Rosen’s A Great Big Cuddle illustrated by Chris Riddell, and Ready for Spaghetti illustrated by Polly Dunbar, bring nursery rhymes up to date. Ready for Spaghetti follows four children through a typical day with funny rhymes, wordplay and nonsense rhymes about everyday situations until bedtime. A selection of quiet rhymes ends the book as the children’s parents make an appearance and settle them for sleep.

James Carter is a brilliant poet for young children. A former early years teacher, he knows exactly what appeals to this age group. He’s also a great choice for an author visit. Zim Zam Zoom, as the subtitle tells us, is full of poetry with read-aloud qualities. This collection contains poems about colour, space, music, and more, with lively illustrations from Nicola Colton, making it a good book to share.

Picture book poetry is a popular choice. Giles Andreae’s bouncy rhymes combined with David Wojtowycz’s bold illustrations are perennial favourites. For animal fun, take your pick from Mad About Mega Beasts, Mad About Minibeasts, Mad About Dinosaurs, Commotion in the Ocean, and Rumble in the Jungle.

For quiet moments, pick up Sean Taylor’s Dream Train, soothingly illustrated by Anuska Allepuz.

Poetry for Year 1

All teachers should have one very good anthology. For Year 1 The Puffin Book of Fantastic Poems fits the bill. Edited by former teacher June Crebbin, this delightful collection includes classic poems by poets such as Walter de la Mare and Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as contemporary poems. The themes of family, animals and everyday experiences are perfect for this age group.

Animals and the natural world go down well with children aged five years and up. We particularly like Nicola Davies’s A First Book of the Sea, which draws on the author’s knowledge and love of the ocean and its wildlife. Emily Sutton’s illustrations capture a full range of moods and accurately depict the wildlife that can be found in the sea and on the shore. This thematic collection is an excellent resource for classes studying the seaside and coasts. A First Book of Nature illustrated by Mark Hearld is a perfect companion volume.

We love Watch Me Bloom, a bouquet of Haiku poems for budding naturalists’ from author-illustrator Krina Patel-Sage. It’s a collection of 24 poems, each based on a different floral species found in the UK. Our reviewer, Vikki Varley writes, ‘The title and cover design allude to the idea that it’s not only the flowers that ‘bloom’ in this text. A slow read allows the reader to appreciate the diversity and inclusivity in the illustrations. We see diverse families, LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities. Particular attention is paid to the characters’ hair and head coverings to reflect ethnic and cultural diversity. There is a clever interplay between words and pictures, which connects the meaning of the poems to human emotions and relationships. For example, the Hollyhock poem reads:

From tall, sturdy stems/showy faces look outward/proud and confident. The accompanying picture shows a happy child wearing a hearing aid standing on top of a rock, superhero cape flying in the breeze.

Children of this age often have the experience of looking after a first pet. However, there are no rabbits, hamsters, kittens, or puppies in Elli Woollard’s Perfectly Peculiar Pets; instead, armadillos, flamingos, umbrella birds, quokkas, and iguanas in this quirky collection full of silly poems.

Matt Goodfellow’s Caterpillar Cake is full to the brim with poems to read aloud. The poems explore children’s everyday experiences, such as skimming pebbles, playing in the bath, taking a trip to the zoo or playing hide and seek; Krina Patel-Sage’s illustrations are bright and uplifting. It’s a well-designed book in which the text is clear to read so children can revisit their favourites and share them in the book corner.

For picture book poetry Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou’s series gets close up with nature. Of the first book, Leap, Hare, Leap, Just Imagine, reviewer Kate Hitchings writes, ‘Dip-dwelling, grass-grazer’ – the opening words immediately begin the magic of this enchanting incantation. A tribute to the power and the elegance of the hare, it is an invitation into the hare’s world – ‘ask why she’s standing, ask what she hears’. This powerful poem by Dom Conlon is instantly captivating.’ Other books in this fabulous series are Swim Shark Swim, Blow, Wind, Blow!, Shine, Star Shine! and Grow, Tree, Grow!.

Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat is regularly voted one of the nation’s favourite poems. Charlotte Voake’s illustration of this whimsical classic is delightful.

Poetry Recommendations for Year 1

Poetry for Year 2

Collections that invite children to ‘join in; continue to be something we consider when choosing poetry for year 2. Joseph Coelho’s Out Loud series, with energetic illustrations by Daniel Gray Barnett, is a great addition for the year 2 classroom. There are three books in the series so far: Poems Aloud, Smile Out Loud and Courage Out Loud.

Poetry can be a wonderful mood buster. When the energy in the class is low, a well-chosen poem can lift the spirits, and there’s no better mood-enhancing collection than Michael Rosen’s Even My Ears are Smiling. We launched this collection with Michael at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford and can say that everyone was indeed smiling when they left the theatre! Also recommended for Year 2 is Michael Rosen’s Book of Very Silly Poems.

For nonfiction picture book poetry, James Carter has written a lovely series of books introducing a range of topics, including Beasts Beneath Our Feet and Once Upon a Rhythm.

On the subject of nature and growing, we recommend I Am the Seed That Grew The Tree. This collection, edited by highly regarded anthologist Fiona Waters and published by Nosy Crow in partnership with The National Trust, contains 366 poems, one for every day of the year, including leap years.

CLiPPA winner Zaro Weil’s When Poems Fall From the Sky. is an outstanding collection. Jon Appleton reviewed this one for us and explained what he appreciated: ‘ These are whimsical poems, sometimes funny, always playful. Her adaptation of ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ would be great fun to read or sing aloud, with its litany of plant names for readers to get their tongues around. Her language is imaginative, and her imagery is apt. A shadow is an ‘inky tattoo’, ‘sun-silent’ and ‘bobble-dark’. These are performance pieces. I enjoyed a short play with a cast of noisy wasps and I liked a two-hander featuring an oak and a jay. There’s a long story-poem, ‘The Magic House of Seeds’. In fact, the variety of lengths and forms adds to the entertainment value.

James Carter‘s wide-ranging collection of poems, Weird, Wild and Wonderful. is particularly handy for dipping into. Reading a requested poem in those in-between moments in the day, like getting changed for PE, tidying the class, and waiting to go for lunch, works very well and quickly expands children’s experience of poetry. Just Imagine reviewer Erin Hamilton writes, ‘The superb use of vocabulary and varying poetry styles will excite teachers to share this collection.’

Debra Bertulis’s collection The Moon’s Gorgonzola is wide-ranging in theme and subject. Here, you will find silly rhymes and more reflective poems to choose from when the mood takes you.

Finally, Tim Hopgood’s illustrated edition of Emily Dickinson’s classic poem Hope is The Thing with Feathers, makes it accessible to a very young audience. The words work on the reader’s feelings and evoke an emotional response even if they cannot articulate what the poem ‘means’.

Poetry Recommendations for Year 2

Poetry for Year 3

For performance poetry in year 3, we recommend Roger Stevens’ Off by Heart. This collection of easily memorised poems is organised by length, which is useful, particularly for finding shorter poems to squeeze into those short waiting times in an otherwise packed day. Julia Donaldson’s Poems to Perform from former Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson is a passion project. Julia is dedicated to performance as an important aspect of engaging children with poetry. The book includes useful tips on how to perform the poems, too, so an excellent resource for busy teachers. Another read-aloud gem is James Carter’s Ticket to Kalamazoo. This one caught the eye of our reviewer Aimee Durning, who writes, ‘There are endless cross-curricular opportunities within this book, including opportunities to explore the Solar System, night-time, and a nocturnal animal – the red fox. There is also a poem that links perfectly to a fairy tale: Little Miss G and the bears, Fuss, Fuss, Fuss. I can imagine many primary children repeating The Goldilocks Rap. The same can be said for the Terrible Ten; children can actively count to 10, along with the poem.’

There’s nothing like reverse psychology to grab children’s attention. Joshua Siegal’s I Don’t Like Poetry is packed with silly poems and is a good choice for independent reading. Michael Rosen’s classic Quick Let’s Get Out of Here is a masterful collection. Rosen’s acute observation of the humour in everyday situations that we all recognise ensures that these poems are relatable and hugely enjoyable. The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice gives full voice to A F Harrold’s humour. This collection will have young readers laughing out loud. Our reviewer Rebecca Simpson-Hargreaves writes, ‘What is really super is this book is the equal ranking of both AF Harrold’s words and Mini Grey’s drawings, it feels like one could not exist with the other. Combined, they offer a unique text that will bring sunshine to any setting and certainly should have pride of place on the reading-for-pleasure pile.’

Old but Gold, Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse for Kids must get a mention. On more than one occasion, ‘On the Ning Nang Nong’ has been voted the nation’s favourite poem, and Milligan deserves his place in the year 3 list.

Chrissie Gittens’s Adder, Bluebell, Lobster contains 40 poems about the natural world from the adder to the wren. In this collection, you will read poems about dive-bombing larks and great crested newts. For animal-loving children, Sue Hardy-Dawson’s Where Zebras Go is a super choice.

Alex Wharton is a poet to look out for. We absolutely love his first collection Daydreams and Jellybeans, as reviewer Eve Bearne writes, ‘What a splendid collection of poems. They range from the deeply thoughtful and poignant ‘Man in Town’ and ‘Trapper Boy’ through to poems that make you laugh like ‘Hector the Horrible Hedgehog’, ‘Spiders’ and ‘Dear Brother’ to whimsical musings, ‘Daydreams’ and ‘The Paint Job’, remarkably sensory poems like ‘Night Music’ which shift perceptions from sight to sounds to touch and ‘Snail’ which uses the design on the page to ooze across it and then the downright moodily beautiful ‘Quiet Things’ and ‘Weeping Willow’ – and much more. We also recommend his Red Sky at Night, A Poet’s Delight.

We often turn to poetry when life gets a bit difficult. It can inspire us, offer words of wisdom, or simply take us out of ourselves. A few well-chosen words can be all that is needed to make us feel better. Daniel Thompson’s Being You is a collection of poems that encourage positive thinking, dealing with themes such as courage, self-belief, overcoming anxiety, and spreading kindness.

We highly recommend Coral Rumble’s latest collection Things that Should be in a Poem. Our reviewer, Ed Finch, was full of praise for this outstanding collection, ‘While many of these poems are there for the fun of rhythm and rhyme, or for the enjoyment of shape, there are some which go into really thoughtful and sensitive ground. I was moved by ‘Mustafa’s Jumper’ a child who had a place in our school community but who has gone – adult readers might think that he has been deported with his family – and the child left behind tries to make sense of the loss. This is beautifully drawn and would make sense on differing levels for children from Year Two upwards, I think.’

Finally, for classic poetry, we have chosen Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, illustrated by Michael Foreman. This collection, first published in 1885, has remarkably never been out of print due to its child-centred view, which resonates today. Choose poems to read carefully, as some of the poems reflect the colonialist values of the past and are best avoided with this age group. You are on safe ground with poems such as ‘A View from a Railway Carriage’ or ‘The Land of Counterpane’.

Poetry recommendations for year 3

Poetry for Year 4

We start our year 4 recommendations with a classic anthology, edited by poet Brian Patten, The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry, This is one of the outstanding anthologies for children of the past 30 years and includes poems by Roger McGough, Michael Rosen, Charles Causley, Benjamin Zephaniah, Spike Milligan, John Agard, and Kit Wright, who we can say have now achieved classic status.

For Year 4, we like Roger McGough’s Imaginary Menagerie, which was recently reissued. Our reviewer, Sarah Merchant, writes, ‘This collection may be over 30 years old, yet the poetry remains creative, refreshing, and smart in its construction. Roger McGough writes, ‘ Bookworms are the cleverest of all the worms I know.’ This book will continue to delight and encourage young ‘bookworms’ in homes, libraries, and classrooms.’

And it isn’t only the big cuddly animals that receive the poetic treatment. Fran Long and Isabel Galleymore have collected together poems about insects and minibeasts: The Bee is Not Afraid of Me Can you imagine a world without bees? Did you know that dung beetles are awesome recyclers? Insects pollinate, recycle and are an important food source for many animals – they’re tiny but mighty superheroes of the animal kingdom. This anthology of children’s poems will educate and excite children about the fascinating world of insects, with factual notes alongside the poems and black-line illustrations. Joseph Coelho’s A Year of Nature Poems is beautifully illustrated with folksy art by Kelly Louise Judd. The 12 poems in this collection take us through the seasons from January to December, observing how wildlife behaves and nature changes as the year rolls by. John Hegley’s I Am a Poetato is a collection of poems about people and animals. Reviewer Jacqueline Doherty enjoyed this one, ‘This is a collection that delights in wordplay and is humorous, but occasionally invites deeper contemplation. One poem is about a child called Isabella who is turning nine years old and asks the poet to look at a ‘horsie’; there is a touch of melancholy while he considers that soon it will be referred to as a horse, a sure sign of growing up. Then there is the delightfully satisfying ‘Guillemot’ which is both silly and clever in its use of rhyme and typography, and demands to be read aloud.’

Two thematic collections published by Little Tiger focus on emotions and well-being. My Heart is a Poem focuses on different emotions we experience and how different situations bring these emotions to the surface. And Courage in a Poem is a collection of poems celebrating empowerment and finding your identity. Our reviewer Jane Gould has this to say about the collection, ‘Words have power of all kinds: persuading, informing, labelling, imagining and, as envisaged by Nikki Grimes in Getting Started, setting you free. The word ‘fly’ helps the protagonist of the poem to daydream an escape from parental arguments, as they wonder ‘Are there other words/that can carry me away?’  This collection is full of words to help young readers do just that and for teachers to help them explore the themes covered.

Poetry and food, what a combination. Look no further than A F Harrold’s anthology Midnight Feasts. This book is more than a catalogue of different foods in poem form; there’s an underlying theme about food bringing people together.

Valerie Bloom, Matt Goodfellow, and Brian Moses are featured in Our Reading Gladiators Book Club. You’ll find notes for Bloom’s Stars with Flaming Tails and Moses’s Lost Magic and Goodfellow’s Chicken on the Roof.

Also by Brian Moses, Selfies with Komodos hit the mark with our reviewer, Ros Steward ‘Ed Boxall’s quirky, fun black and white line drawings perfectly complement Brian’s poems. My favourite? Too many to choose from, but ‘Words’ was thought-provoking about how we speak to each other, ‘Custodian’ with its theme of looking after nature, the poignant ‘Nobody Told the Dog’, and of course ‘The Sea’s Ghosts’ which made the hairs on my arms rise!

Laura Mucha’s Dear Ugly Sisters could be read by any class in KS2. It is, by turns, light-hearted and reflective. Children will love the contemporary take on fairy tales – a mirror that talks to you, Rapunzel locked in her tower for years, unable to take a bath or shower – phew! But for more serious moments, read ‘How Long Until I Can See My Mum?’ which deals with the plight of refugee children separated from their parents.

‘Poems are Doors’ is the first poem in Debra Bertulis’s debut collection, Where Do Wishes Go? And there are many doors in this book. Rebecca Simpson Hargrave writes, ‘Each poem sounds like the author has dipped into a child’s mind and draws attention to elements that may be thought or worried about but are very rarely discussed. Poems such as ‘Looking After Mum’ and ‘Grandad’s Leaving Home’, approach upsetting topics in a sensitive and supportive way. They could bring comfort to those going through the same things. As well as trickier topics, there are poems to make the reader think with questions written underneath, such as ‘Jack’s Mountain’. It talks about a child’s obsession with Mount Everest and prompts us to find out more about Mallory and Irvine’s journey.’

Open your poetry doors today with this super selection of books for year 4.

Poetry Recommendations for Year 4

Poetry for Year 5

Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Verses are not for the faint-hearted, but children in year 5 will relish the gruesome humour of Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death or Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion. These tongue-in-cheek verses are an ironic play on the ‘character forming’ moral verse for children of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. While children are unlikely to pick this up if reading independently, it’s an interesting point for discussion with the teacher.

For older poetry, Walter de La Mare’s Peacock Pie. The whimsical poems in this collection hint at a bygone era that was already in the past when de la Mare was writing. This is a collection in which fairies and witches abide alongside the unfortunate Jim Jay, who got stuck in yesterday. The collection includes de la Mare’s most famous poem, ‘The Listeners’. Younger children who have had plenty of opportunities to hear poetry aloud will enjoy these short, mysterious, and atmospheric poems. Still, they may be better placed here in year 5 due to the archaic language.

Nosy Crow’s beautifully produced thematic collection, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, published in association with The National Trust, features 366 animal poems. Britta Teckentrup’s breathtaking illustrations bring together all the richness and wonder of the animal kingdom.

Brain Patten’s Juggling With Gerbils was one of my son’s favourite poetry collections when he was around 9. It’s an outstanding collection with poems ranging from the silly to the melancholy. For teachers, I recommend the poem ‘Geography Lesson’. It always brings a tear to my eye, and I have held it close for thirty years. Part of me admires the teacher who could bring the world into the classroom, but the sad irony of never having allowed himself to travel is a lesson to all of us – carpet diem. Patten is, for me, one of the true greats of children’s poetry.

Fellow Liverpool poet Roger McGough’s collection, Bad, Bad Cats – features the ‘Mafia Cats’, who may play at being bad on the street but at home revert to being Ginger and Tibbles. And McGough’s take on Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ is brilliant – and wins the prize for one of the shortest poems ever. We are delighted that another collection by

Another great is Charles Causley, whose poems are available in a classic collection from Macmillan with line illustrations by John Lawrence. Causley was a Cornish poet, and you will find local themes in his verses and the use of traditional forms, including ballads. Rachel Piercy sums the collection up ‘you’ll find rollicking ballads, surreal ditties, nature poems, war poems, personal legends, naval tales, ghost stories, school stories, playground rhymes, portrait poems, existential enquiries, probing non-preachy morals, gleeful nonsense in the anarchic spirit of Edward Lear, beautiful lyricism, and sheer, unapologetic enchantment.’ This collection is highly recommended – make sure you have it in your classroom.

Matt Goodfellow’s profile has increased significantly since the publication of his verse novel, The Final Year, which we recommend for Y6. His superb poetry collections Bright Bursts of Colour and Let’s Chase Stars Together should not be overshadowed – beautifully crafted poems encompass the light and shade of life experience.

Maya Angelou’s powerful words in Life Doesn’t Frighten Me are perfect for readers in years 5 and 6 growing into their own skins. With visceral illustrations by Jean-Michel Basquiet this picture book version is both accessible and thought-provoking.

Rachel Piercy’s Watcher in the Skies takes us into outer space. The anthology includes poets such as Dom Conlon, Kate Wakeling, Cheryl Moskowitz and David Harmer. In her introduction, Piercy writes, ‘Poets like to question things. They deal in wonder, fear, and excitement; they are interested in both drama and serenity. They love to say, ‘What if?’ and ‘Imagine this’ and invent characters to live in their made-up worlds. They also like fascinating facts. So it’s not really surprising that the subject of space – filled with fireballs, black holes, vivid colours, swirling movement. potential aliens, unanswered questions and vast stretches of noooooothing – turns out to be perfect for poets.’ Open up the world of wonder for your children with this collection.

Simon Lamb’s debut collection, A Passing on of Shells, is an exciting new addition. Our reviewer, Kalpa Ghelani enjoyed this collection, ‘Each poem transports you to its own little world and many of them lend them self well to echo reading, readers theatre and spoken word. There are some lovely models in this book for haikus and rhyming couplets that could easily lead the children into writing their own.’ We are looking forward to seeing more from this poet.

Other highly recommended collections for year 5 include J AF Harrold and Don Conlon’s Wild Town, superbly illustrated by Korky Paul and Kate Wakeling’s Cloud Soup.

Poetry Recommendations for Year 5

Poetry for Year 6

Two of our favourite anthologies for year 6 are Michael Rosen’s Classic Poetry ( book club notes in our Reading Gladiators Book Club), illustrated in full colour by various illustrators. Poets include Blake, Rosetti, Carroll and Langston Hughes, amongst others. Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes’ The School Bag is a classic amongst anthologies. Arranged alphabetically by title or first line, this collection allows readers to approach each poem without preconceptions. It’s a collection that will grow with the reader and has something to offer all ages.

William Sieghart‘s Everyone Sang, beautifully illustrated by Emily Sutton, is an anthology based on feelings. Sieghart’s work with National Poetry Day and The Poetry Pharmacy informs this wide-ranging collection, which includes poetry from Jackie Kay, Lemn Sissay, W B Yeats, Kate Tempest, and Emily Dickinson.

Wonder, edited by Ana Sampson, is inspired by the collections of the Natural History Museum. t covers everything from the depths of space to the very centre of the earth. There are poems about the solar system, planet Earth, oceans and rivers, birds, dinosaurs, fossils, wildlife, flowers, fungi, insects, explorers and palaeontologists. Each section includes an introduction and some footnotes about particularly interesting species. Illustrated with botanical drawings and engravings from the museum’s collections. The anthology includes classic poems and poems commissioned especially for this collection.

Charles Keeping’s illustrated The Lady of Shalott and The Highwayman editions are deservedly popular with year 6 classes. Keeping’s black and white ink drawings are incredibly powerful and heighten the tension of the dramatic narrative poems. Both books have full teaching sequences in our Take One Book resource.

The Collected Poems of Carol Ann Duffy (full teaching sequence in our Take One Book resource) and Ted Hughes are excellent additions to the year 6 bookshelf.

James Berry was a forerunner of the Caribbean movement in poetry, and his collection, Only One of Me is full of vivid recollections and the cadences and rhythms of Jamaican English.

Bringing us up to the moment, Joseph Coelho’s Overheard in a Tower Block puts poetry into the heart of the city, reminding us that it isn’t the preserve of the countryside. This collection deals with difficult issues such as parental absence and bullying. Coelho’s interests in mythology (that surface in his older YA novels) and nature also feature. Best reserved for the summer term as a precursor to the transition to secondary school.

CLiPPA award-winning Karl Nova‘s collection Rhythm and Poetry (otherwise known as RAP) is influenced by his passion for Hip Hop. Loosen up and let the rhythm flow through you when you read these poems aloud – they are crafted to be spoken. His latest collection The Curious Case of Karl Nova is equally vibrant.

Michael Rosen’s A- Z is a fabulous celebration of some of the best poetry from children – from Agard to Zephaniah. Is there a poet with a surname beginning with X? You will have to pick up a copy of this collection to find out.

We’ll end this selection with the letter Z for Zephaniah, a poet sorely missed. Funky Chickens and Talking Turkeys have a sharp political edge and are concerned with social justice. An awareness of the world’s difficulties as well as its beauty is so important as we wave goodbye to our year 6 classes and they take their next step into the wider world.

Recommended Poetry for Year 6