RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 16 Author & Teacher Randi Sonenshine

Happy Thursday!

RhyPiBoMo Rhyming Party

Our final Rhyming Party is this Friday! I hope you can join me for the mayhem! It is one hour of trivia questions about this week’s blog posts in our RhyPiBoMo Facebook Group. If you aren’t a member, request to join the over 600 folks who share our rhyming passion.  Everyone involved must type in rhyming phrases…SO funny! Don’t miss this last chance at 8:00 pm CST Friday night.


 Today’s guest blogger is a good friend who was also part of my RPB Revolution Conference “DREAM TEAM” Committee! I first met her on Facebook, when we both competed in the March Madness Poetry Tournament. She placed second last year, which is truly a dinosauric feat! The level of poets in that competition is stellar. Fortunately, we met in person last summer at a retreat and really hit it off. I’m so happy to say that she is now an agency mate as we both share Kendra Marcus as our agent at BookStop Literary! Obviously, I’m thrilled to have this talented lady on the calendar of bloggers this year!


 I’m pleased to introduce

Author & Teacher Randi Sonenshine

Randi Sonenshine Headshot

Author & Teacher Randi Sonenshine


Not Just for Circle Time: Rhyming Picture Books

in the Classroom

by Randi Sonenshine


I confess – I’m a picture book pusher.

As an instructional literacy coach, part of my job is to search for, recommend, and often purchase supplemental texts. Naturally, as a reading specialist and writer for children, picture books are at the top of my list. They are the perfect, bite-sized segue into many complex skills and concepts, not to mention a stand-alone literary treat.

Ten years ago, as the new (and only) literacy coach in the school system, it was hard enough to sell this idea to middle and high school English teachers. Luckily, with modeling and support, they quickly came around. But what about science, social studies, and math teachers? The first time I brought up picture books during a professional learning session, most of them looked at me like I had a third eye. Some even seemed to want to hurt me. Really.

In their defense, with only a vague statement about “reading across the curriculum,” in their standards, literacy was far from a priority; how could they see the connection between literacy and learning when the “experts” creating their curriculum made it an afterthought?

Thankfully, that’s far from the case today. Both the Next Generation Science Standards and the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies weave literacy strands throughout the core concepts and across grade levels, and they both align with the Common Core Standards for ELA and Literacy. With those critical reading and writing skills embedded in the standards, content literacy is not merely a suggestion, but an expectation for all teachers.

The problem is that textbooks, especially science and social studies, haven’t caught up with these curriculum shifts. Most still contain dry, – well, textbook text, which is hardly the most engaging material, not to mention difficult for students with learning disabilities or limited English proficiency. That’s why many teachers are turning to online subscriptions like Newsela and TweenTribune, as well as classroom magazines, novels and picture books, for more interesting and accessible content-related texts.

While there seems to be a growing number of content-related picture books on the shelves, rhyming picture books are scarce among them, a surprising fact considering the strong link between rhyme and learning.

That’s where you come in! Add beautiful language, connections to content standards, and engaging illustrations, and your rhyming picture book will have a life well beyond Circle Time.

So, beyond the tips shared here by so many amazing industry professionals (Holy Cannoli, Batman – I’m in between Margarita Engle and Alexandra Penfold!), here are a few more from an educator’s perspective:

  • Establish a strong, rather than vague connection to the standard. To that end, familiarize yourself with the standards. As navigating these can be daunting, even for seasoned teachers, start by zooming in on overarching themes, like the Crosscutting Concepts in the NGSS, the Anchor Standards in the ELA Common Core, and the Ten Themes for the NCSS social studies standards.

  • Be diligent with your research, as content must be accurate and up-to-date. Provide bibliographic information and sources for further reading; teachers often use these to extend and enrich learning.

  • Create opportunities for readers to explore concepts more fully in the back matter or with non-fiction call-outs. Also consider adding sidebars, charts, graphs, and/or maps if appropriate; interpreting these text features is a critical skill across all subject areas, and a common task on state assessments.

  • When possible, use the academic language of the standards. Rhyming picture books, which naturally lend themselves to repeated readings, provide both context and multiple exposures to new words, which are necessary for word learning. If there isn’t sufficient context in the text for readers to infer the meaning, add a glossary as part of the back matter.

  • Consider emphasizing a particular organizational structure, such as cause-effect, chronological, comparison-contrast, cyclical, or problem-solution. Analyzing these patterns is another critical skill that crosses all disciplines.

  • Strive for multiple layers of meaning that provide opportunities for close reading, discussion, and debate for older students. For a good example, read Denise Fleming’s Where Once There Was a Wood or This is the Dream, by Diane Z. Shore, Jessica Alexander, and James Ransome.

  • Create some STEAM. The STEAM movement, which is quickly gaining momentum, grew out of STEM, (the push for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education.) The new platform infuses the Arts, such as music, dance, theater, visual arts, and design.

A Few of My Favorite Rhyming Picture Books for the Classroom:

A House is a House for Me

A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman

An Island Grows

An Island Grows by Lola Schaefer, illustrated by Cathie Felstead

The Lorax

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss


Mojave by Diane Siebert, illustrated by Wendell Minor

Over in the Wetlands

Over in the Wetlands by Caroline Starr Rose, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

This is the Dream        This is the Earth

This is the Dream and This is the Earth by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander, illustrated by James Ransome.

This is the Sunflower

This is the Sunflower by Lola Schaefer, illustrated by Donald Crews

Water can be

Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija

Water is Water

Water is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

Where Once there was a wood

Where Once There Was a Wood by Denise Fleming


Randi Sonenshine has been an educator and professional developer for over twenty years. An instructional literacy coach and member of the ELA Advisory Council for the Georgia Department of Education, she has taught high school English, middle school language arts, and college reading. As a children’s author, she is represented by Kendra Marcus at BookStop Literary.

She lives in northwest Georgia with her husband, two sons, a very sneaky schnauzer, and an immortal, shape-shifting goldfish.

You can find Randi at Facebook, theproseytree.blogspot.com or on Twitter as @rsonenshine.

Thank You Randi!

PLEASE like our guest bloggers on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, go to their websites and express your appreciation for their time and wisdom! Many have generously donated multiple prizes and this event would not be successful without their support, so please support them! Oh…and buy their books too!!


To be eligible for today’s prize drawing by Random.org you must comment at the bottom of the page where it says “Leave A Reply” AND add your FIRST and LAST name in the comment. If I don’t have your name or how to contact you via email, you can’t win.

You must be a member of the RhyPiBoMo Facebook Group and if you haven’t officially registered, you are not eligible to win.

Please follow the pledge rules daily to get the most out of this challenge!


The drawings will be done daily and announced on Saturday of each week.




112 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 16 Author & Teacher Randi Sonenshine

  1. Deborah Allmand
    Randi, thanks for such wonderful information and resources. I can’t wait to see what I can research and write about. Thanks again!

  2. 1. “Consider emphasizing a particular organizational structure, such as cause-effect, chronological, comparison-contrast, cyclical, or problem-solution.” 2. “Strive for multiple layers of meaning…”
    Outstanding points to remember when writing for children, Randi. I loved all your suggestions not only because I like to write for children but because I am a true advocate of wanting to see children read well from the very start.
    Thank you!

  3. Anita Jones
    I can relate well to this topic! I was a fellow in the Indiana/National Writing project and served as a writing consultant with three other colleagues. We worked very hard at encouraging writing literacy at all levels. As an art teacher I worked with other disciplines in creating a curriculum that tied my area with other areas….and writing was the core! I’ve since retired and am devoting my time to writing full time, so I needed that reminder about how important this area is….and maybe concentrate on picture books that will be educational tools on those area that I spent a lifetime trying to encourage! Thanks Randi for sharing your valuable information!!!

  4. Anne Bielby — Randi, I have to admit when people start talking Core Standards, my eyes start to glaze over, thanks for making the connections more palatable. And THANKS for being a picture book pusher.

  5. Sara Gentry
    Thank you for your post, Randi. It was a timely one for me. I have a PhD in applied mathematics and I have been working on a lyrical treatment of mathematical concepts. Sounds like an oxymoron 🙂 But nonetheless, I am hoping to do just that, and your comments are encouraging!

  6. Rebecca Snyder,

    Thanks, Randi, for showing how to blend CORE standards into a rhyming, learning experience! So thoughtful of you to include resources!

  7. Hi Randi – thanks for the stellar post from an excellent educator’s prospective.
    I second Dawn Young…Randi rocks 🙂
    aimee haburjak

  8. Daryl Gottier- Thanks for a post that’s full of great info. As a speech therapist I often used rhymiing picture books to help the children attend to individual sounds in words, and they had fun at the same time. And thanks for more suggestions for my reading list.

    • David, don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be non-fiction to be content-related! Think about the Lorax by Dr. Seuss, for example. There are strong science connections (ecology, habitat, and conservation), plus social studies- (economics). It’s a springboard for discussion and “hook” for deeper learning. That’s what I love about picture books—their versatility!!

  9. Mary Warth
    Thanks for the great post Randi!
    Many of the texts you featured are new to me so they are now on my library list !

  10. Thank you, Randi, for sharing your perspective as an educator. Teachers who share picture books as read alouds with their students in all grades and all subjects know what is best for all students. It’s just good teaching.
    ~Suzy Leopold

  11. NATALIE LYNN TANNER: Hi Randi! I TRULY appreciated reading a post written from the perspective of a reading specialist and writer for children. WHAT A VIEW!!! This will TRULY help with the revisions of my books! THANK YOU!!!

  12. Melanie Ellsworth – As a former literacy specialist at a career/tech high school, I really appreciate your perspective, Randi. Thanks for the many amazing links and tips on how to make connections between our manuscripts and teachers’/students’ needs.

  13. Chris Clayson – Thank you, Randi Sonenshine! You are a true trail blazer where RPB’s and reality come together.

  14. Judy Sobanski –
    Wonderful post, Randi. I never realized RPB would be so useful and enjoyable for kids beyond the traditional age range of 4-8. I will research the common core standards as you suggested. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

  15. Melinda Kinsman – Thanks for giving us all “food for thought”, Randi, and for the wealth of great links you’ve included for us to check out.

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