I adore children's poetry. Nearly every night, when we are getting ready for bedtime read aloud, I read a couple of poems from Favorite Poems Old and New selected by Helen Ferris or The Book of A Thousand Poems: A Family Treasury. We are currently working our way through all of the "winter" themed poems. I just read one or two, and then I typically finish up with a couple more after a chapter or two from our current book, if it isn't too late. (Right now we are reading Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter and really enjoying it!) When I first got these books, I wished that they were illustrated, but now it doesn't matter, as I'm reading to my children in the hallway when they are all in bed. I hope that now they are able to create their own illustrations in their heads.
I've read poetry to my children since they were very little. Every morning I read Sandra Boynton's Hey! Wake Up! board book to my waking babies, and finished the day with her Going to Bed Book and Mem Fox's Time for Bed. (How many times is that . . . nearly every night for nearly fifteen years . . . that's ALOT!) I also typically started each baby's read aloud session with a couple of poems. We especially liked Kay Chaoro's Baby's Bedtime Book and Baby's Good Morning Book.
I think my favorite children's poetry book is the relatively new Here's A Little Poem by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters. (I like the collection of old favorites and new discoveries, but I especially love the ticklesome illustrations by Polly Dunbar.) Recently, I was delighted to see a second book by these authors, Switching on the Moon, full of bedtime poems. Another favorite collection for little ones is Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky. (We also love to read any poetry by Jack Prelutsky, and still keep the old favorites by Shel Silverstein on hand as well.)
Studies show that the ability to rhyme is linked to the learning-to-read process . . . plus it is great fun to read (and memorize) poetry together as a family!