Poems by Heart from Penguin Classics

App review by
Stacy Zeiger, Common Sense Media
Poems by Heart from Penguin Classics App Poster Image
Memorize and recite poems with handy but limited app.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn the words to poems from some of the most beloved poets of all time. Whether it's Paul Laurence Dunbar's "Ships That Pass in the Night," Edgar Allen Poe's "Eldorado," or Shakespeare's "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?," kids will hear, see, and get the chance to record themselves reciting these classics. As they hear them, kids will begin to understand the meanings of the poems and start to recognize familiar elements of poetry. The memorization tools are quite sound, but curious kids could benefit from a way to analyze and better understand the poems they're putting to memory. 

Ease of Play

The app is relatively straightforward but could benefit from a tutorial to help kids maximize its features.


Some poems, both free and purchased, may reference minor acts of violence or violent emotions.


Poems may reference love and sexual thoughts and feelings.


Poems may feature words used in questionable contexts or with questionable connotations.


The Penguin logo appears prominently on the main screen. Encourages purchase of additional poems and poem packages.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Poems may reference drinking, drugs, and smoking directly and indirectly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Poems by Heart focuses on memorizing and reciting classic poems. Although a few poems come free with the app, kids will have to purchase additional poems either individually or in sets. Before your kids buy a poem, you may want to make sure it fits the occasion and level. As kids begin to memorize poems, you also can encourage them to practice alone as well as with someone else around to offer constructive criticism. Although the app offers multiple activities to help kids learn, it fails to recognize whether they can actually recite the poem correctly -- that part may be up to you. 

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What's it about?

POEMS BY HEART FROM PENGUIN CLASSICS introduces kids to the art of poem memorization and recitation. It includes a few free poems for kids to learn, ranging in difficulty level. Kids start by hearing the poem read (they can choose a male or a female voice to do the reading). Kids then learn each poem in sections, completing an activity that has them fill in the missing words. As they correctly fill in words, the activity becomes more difficult, leaving out more and more words until kids fill in the entire poem themselves. After learning the poem, they have the opportunity to record themselves reading it line by line or all at once.

Is it any good?

In an age that encourages critical thinking and analysis, poem recitation and memorization may seem like a lost art. However, it may still benefit some kids or serve as an opportunity to help them learn poems to recite for special occasions. The app itself does a good job of helping kids memorize the poems, taking them line by line and increasing in difficulty as they learn more and more of each poem. However, simply memorizing the poem doesn't mean kids will understand it. Adding a brief analysis of each poem or even the opportunity to look up the definitions of words could help kids grasp a poem's meaning, which, in turn, could make memorizing easier.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Prepare a poem to perform at a holiday party or to mark another momentous occasion.

  • Families can talk about the meanings of the poems kids choose to recite. Are there any metaphors, similes, or words your kids aren't familiar with? Look them up!

  • If kids find a poem they like, encourage them to look up and read additional poems by the poet.

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: presenting to others, reading, speaking
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: memorization
    Self-Direction: work to achieve goals
    Communication: conveying messages effectively, listening, multiple forms of expression, presenting, speaking
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free (Only includes a few poems. Additional poems available through in-app purchase both individually and as sets.)
  • Release date: December 12, 2013
  • Category: Education
  • Size: 38.10 MB
  • Publisher: Penguin Group USA
  • Version: 2.0
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 4.3 or later
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love poetry

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