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Today, I’m thrilled to be participating in VerseDay, an epic blogfest singing the praises of poetry.

As some of you may know, I used to be a middle school Language Arts teacher.  In that life, I quickly learned the value of teaching with novels in verse, and I want to share my top 3 reasons for teaching verse novels.  These apply to parents as well as teachers, and hopefully everyone who wants to encourage kids to read will find something useful in this post!

Why Teach with Verse Novels?

Reason #1: A “friendly” way to introduce poetry

When you ask most students about poetry, they usually groan and profess to hate it.  Adults have a similar reaction; somewhere along the way, we must have spent too much time analyzing language and not enough time inhabiting the poems that we studied.  Poetry is a powerful art form, and it’s a shame that so many people have a bad relationship with it.  Using novels like Love That Dog and Hate That Cat (both by  Sharon Creechcan provide students with a varied introduction to poetic forms, allowing them to explore the many faces of poetry without feeling like it’s work.

Reason #2: Verse novels go deep

Topics like mental illness, poverty, teen pregnancy, and immigration may be tricky to address in the classroom, but books like Stop Pretending(by Sonya Sones), Planet Pregnancy (by Linda Oatman High), Make Lemonade (by Virginia Euwer Wolff) and The House on Mango Street (by Sandra Cisneroscan provide students with a focal point to help them frame their discussions of difficult subject.  

Reason #3: Verse novels are fast

Reluctant readers LOVE verse novels.  I remember handing a copy of What My Mother Doesn’t Know(by Sonya Sones) to an English language learner who thought she hated reading.  She devoured the book, and started begging for more.  The empty space on the page in a verse novel gives reluctant readers some breathing room; the book feels shorter and easily managed than a prose novel.

Why do you read verse novels?