Summer is the perfect time for poetry. The warm, relaxed days are filled with great images and memories. There are many poetry books for children that celebrate nature and the outdoors. Others highlight experiences typical of summertime, such as gardening or traveling. For students who have not yet discovered the joy of poetry, the connection to nature and the outdoors may be all that they need to become hooked.
The books in this list are perfect for sharing during the spring and summer months. Introducing some of these to students before they leave for vacation may encourage them to add some poetry to their summer reading lists. These books are also perfect for kicking off the school year by reflecting on the summer’s end — a kind of invitation to our students as both readers and writers to look at their world in a new way.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature is a poetry anthology by Nicola Davies. Nicola Davies is typically an author of children’s nonfiction picture books. This anthology combines the information of a nonfiction book with the language of poetry. There is something in here for everyone who loves nature.
Step Gently Out by Helen Frost is a picture book poem filled with amazing photographs from nature. Children are immediately drawn to both the photos and the powerful words that accompany them. There are not many words on each page, but this makes for a great opportunity to think about the power of careful word choice when describing the world around us.
Another book that reads like a picture book is Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre. For readers who spend time in the summer at local farmers’ markets, this is definitely a book that they’ll enjoy. This book is one long chant that celebrates fresh produce.
A poet who has many books with nature themes is Joyce Sidman. Her books each focus on looking at the world with writer’s eyes. She celebrates the beauty in nature, and many of the poems may inspire students to try their own nature poetry. Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow looks closely at many things across a day in a meadow. Joyce teaches readers to look closely at the fascinating life in this environment. In Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, she takes a look at the many spirals in nature. This book reads like a picture book, and students will notice swirls where they may not have seen them before. There are not many books that focus on the nighttime, but Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night is one that students enjoy. Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors focuses on all four seasons (and not just spring/summer), but the ways Sidman writes about colors will help readers look at summer scenes and the colors in them in new ways.
A book that is perfect for young children is Busy in the Garden by George Shannon. This anthology is filled with fun, rhythmic poems about a garden. Many of the poems have repeated phrases and rhyme, and each celebrates a different aspect of gardening. This book is ideal for reading with a friend.
The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen is a book filled with poems about common American birds. Each poem is written in Haiku. The artwork is stunning, and each page gives you a bit of “field guide” type information with details about each bird.
A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems by Deborah Ruddell and Joan Rankin takes a more lighthearted look at nature. Students will enjoy the humor as they learn about life over a year in a forest.
Splish Splash by Joan Bransfield Graham is a book of shape poems about water. Not every poem in this collection is related to nature or summer, but many are. From rain to the ocean, each poem takes on a shape and rhythm of its own.
A very different book focusing on water is Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs. This book celebrates oceans. The watercolor illustrations are a perfect match to the language and joy of these poems. Readers who have spent time at the ocean will enjoy this collection.
Ordinary Things: Poems from a Walk in Early Spring by Ralph Fletcher explores all of the ordinary and extraordinary things that the author comes across on a daily walk. Stopping to notice is the work of a poet, and this book will invite readers to pay a bit more attention when walking or playing outside.
City I Love by Lee Bennett Hopkins is a book that students preparing for summer vacations may enjoy. Hopkins celebrates the sights and sounds of famous cities around the world. Although nature is not often the focus of these poems, being outside in the city is!
Valerie Worth is a master at describing things in unique ways. In her book Animal Poems, she focuses on a variety of animals, many of which students may encounter during time spent outdoors.