Picture book idea in mind, where do you start? How do you tell your tale? Many writers assume they start in rhyme….
But…to rhyme or not to rhyme is a not a simple question. You must first know what it takes to write in rhyme before you begin.
Write in rhyme, not just rhyme. Anyone can rhyme. People rhyme all the time. But remember as writers, we are storytellers first.
Sure, it’s fun to keep rhyming and see where the words take you, but that’s follow the leader, which leads to stories that are awkward, forced, difficult to read and even more difficult to understand.
Editors are typically not fans of rhyme, and frankly, (sometimes) I can’t blame them, especially when I go back and read the first drafts of some of my rhyming stores. I cringe! So rhymers, potential rhymers, study before you rhyme.
It’s true, many editors will flat out say they do not like rhyme, but don’t let that frighten you away. Rhyme is fun, useful and part of childhood. We, as writers, should rhyme only when we can do it beautifully and brilliantly – when we can do it justice. There are numerous benefits to reading rhyming stories to children and thus reason for writers to write in rhyme.
“Rhymers will be readers: it’s that simple.” – Mem Fox
The Common Core Standards specify rhyming as a competency under English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Foundational Skills » Kindergarten
According to Scholastic:
“By emphasizing rhyming poems and games with your infant or toddler, you’re also helping his emerging literacy. The instinct to rhyme comes somewhat naturally. Researchers have overheard and reported that even young toddlers practice their own made-up rhymes, such as “Oogie, woogie, poogie” over and over. Infants and toddlers tack on the “-ee” sound as a diminutive to many words. Toddlers call out “doggie,” “kitty,” “horsey,” as they point and label the animals they see in a picture book.
Toddlers giggle at funny rhymes even when these involve nonsense words, as in many of the Dr. Seuss books. Becoming aware of rhyming sounds boosts brain activity and early literacy ability. Adding singsong rhyming words to requests for your child to listen or to stop an activity is a great way to get her attention. Rhymes and rhythms add zest and humor as well as increasing your child’s cooperation.”
And as published in Earlychildhood NEWS:
“Oral language and phonological sensitivity (sound discrimination) are not the only skills that are developed when children are exposed to songs, chants, and rhyme. They can also develop listening and thinking skills. Oral language (vocabulary), phonological sensitivity and comprehension (thinking skills) are the building blocks of literacy. With conscious effort, songs, chants and rhymes become a perfect springboard for developing all three of these critical skill areas.”
And finally, according to Read to Me International:
“Rhyme is an easy introduction to literacy! Research shows that even young toddlers practice their own made-up rhymes such as “oogie, woogie, poogie” over and over. It’s an easy, pleasant starting point for learning word and language structure.
Rhyme builds vocabulary! It introduces words not necessarily found in daily conversation, and creates simple ways to remember them. It’s also an easy way to learn the sounds of letters and words.
Rhyming words develop strong pathways in the brain. According to Alice Sterling Honig, PhD, “Becoming aware of rhyming sounds boosts brain activity and a child’s early literacy ability.” Conversely, children who enter kindergarten unable to recognize rhymes have a harder time with early literacy experiences.”
So, if you feel the need to rhyme – put the time in and study it.
Rhyming is an art, not just a start.