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. I just read this. I will be at a school all day tomorrow so this blog is wuite valuable to have read. I am trying to combine at Grade 4/5 and later Gr 7 historical happenings with writing a simple haiku or free verse. I have a power point presentation first about books I’ve written and then it will be ‘brain’storming time.”Your ideas of seeing literary connections is just what I hope to achieve. Thanks for confirming that.

  2. Jill Giesbrecht – Thank you for your insight. I have thought that fun books that one learns through are the best kind. Lots of good books like this are used in various home learning curricula as well (although there too, picture books tend to be unfortunately limited to the younger grades).

  3. Thank you, Randi. You are right about the use of picture books with older students. Our middle school know their value and use them effectively. – Judy Rubin

  4. It’s so important to keep the curriculum in mind, and some of my favorite NF PBs are written in rhyme. It would be nice to see more NF books in rhyme. Thanks for a truly informative post! — Rebecca Colby

    • They are out there, Rebecca…just not that many, and hard to find. I love using fiction PBs to teach concepts, as well. THE LORAX is a good example; there are so many connections to ecology, conservation, ethics…you name it!

  5. Linda Hofke

    Someone asked me the other day if I tried writing a nonfiction book in rhyme? I had to reply, no, I hadn’t. Then I realized she had a point. With my background in poetry and my interest in nonfiction stories, it would seem a natural route to explore. This post was very helpful.

    Also, I love the Miranda’s “Water is Water”. If I could write a book as good as that I would rejoice!

    • Me too, Linda! It’s a brilliant book. Remember, it doesn’t have to be true non-fiction. If it explores a concept in a new way, even through fiction, it can be as valuable inside the classroom as out. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  6. (Katelyn Aronson) Thank you, Randi! It is so good to know you are championing rhyming picture books in this way. I think using story as a springboard for learning in all subjects is extremely beneficial for children, helping them synthesize all kinds of information. Wonderful!

  7. Therese Nagi
    Randi thanks for the detailed post. You have given me many ideas to ponder with common core. I write non-fiction and I’m mindful of your biographical suggestions.

  8. Great to see you here, Randi. Wow! you have given so much information about using rhyme and picture books to get facts across to all the kids, not just the little ones…to quote you, “They are the perfect, bite-sized segue into many complex skills and concepts, not to mention a stand-alone literary treat.” I love this! Thanks for all the mentor texts and resources. I’m going to have to read this post a few more times to absorb everything you’ve presented. Still sipping that first cup of coffee with you!

    • Aww! I miss my almost-roomate! So happy to have shared your morning coffee (even though I’m a devoted tea-drinker!). I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’d love to hear what you are working on these days!

  9. Thank you for this post, Randi. It’s informative and much appreciated.
    I’m so pleased that extensive research and school pilot work that I undertook during the creation of my picture books and apps for 8-11 year olds falls in line with your summation. I found there to be too immediate a leap from picture books to early chapter novels for certain groups of readers and chose the highly illustrated option, along with lyrical text, that meets the criteria that you outline. The associated educational guides and lesson plans allow for examination of grammatical structures etc. I chose to write both first and second versions of each book, with the second language option featuring a glossary at the foot of each double page spread. My publisher requested UK English, US English and Welsh editions, which has been a huge commitment, but I have files in place now that will allow the creation of e and audio books also. Having a series of apps already in place adds up to a multi-modal, multi platform approach that is cross-curricular, with input from the target audience, educators, parents, and librarians having been crucial and highly appreciated.
    Eiry Rees Thomas

  10. Cathy Lentes
    As a fellow educator, I agree with everything Randi said. And as a person who specifically works with children with disabilities, I can attest to the importance of and love for these particular kinds of books. I frequently recommend using picture books at all levels (even high school) because for kids with learning problems, visuals and simple but engaging texts can make all the difference in creating interest and helping them remember concepts.

  11. Randi,
    Many many thanks for the great post and also excellent links (since I am not in the educational system). I recently teamed up with someone in the same work field as me at the SCBWI NY conference and we are going to work on an educational book in our field. An inspiration – thanks again!

  12. Thank you, Randi! I appreciate your perspective on picture books and rhyme. I’m excited that Art was added to STEM. GO STEAM! Manju Howard

  13. Natalie McNee – interestingly one of my friends who is a teacher made a comment a month ago about the need for more non-fiction picture books that will capture and entertain the students. I’m hoping that this will be an upward trend sooner rather than later. Thank you for the post Randi!

  14. Gayle C. Krause

    As a former Early Childhood Education teacher I totally agree with your point of using good rhyming picture books to teach the skills needed in the classroom. I always purchased books for my Pre-K that could be extended into the curriculum. 🙂

  15. Debbie Smart – Randi, Thank you for the great examples and book suggestions. Your post will certainly be a great resource! Thank you for your time in sharing your knowledge.

  16. Thank you for a most insightful post, Randi! As a former Early Childhood Teacher, I enjoyed presenting rhyming books that introduced, explained, and encouraged exploration of all kinds. So many times a catchy phrase or repeated rhyme became a chant as the kids went about their day. I also appreciate the terrific examples you gave us and I look forward to reading them.

  17. Ann Magee
    Thanks for this informative post, Randi. Your perspective on this topic is valuable–and so are the links–I’ve copied and pasted into my files. I especially love your NF slant 🙂

  18. Kathy Mazurowski
    Thank you for your insight. As a “formally” retired teacher, I appreciate and agree with your words.

  19. Your post provides so many excellent ideas and provides inspiration for mixing rhyming picture books with non-fiction. Thank-you for providing the list of mentor texts and your educator’s perspective. The information is very helpful.

    Debbie McCue

  20. Thank you for all the tips from an educator’s perspective. I really believe anything can be taught with a story, and remembered with a song or poem.

  21. Randi, I love the nonfiction and rhyming picture books connection! Having some background
    and understanding of the expectations in the classroom can enlighten our writing process.
    Thanks for your ideas!
    Deirdre Englehart

  22. Charlotte Dixon

    Hi Randi! So good to read your post and have a visit 🙂 I recently attended a webinar about common core and I appreciate your input. Thank you for your inspiration and fine examples of mentor texts. Happy writing!

  23. Julie Schuh

    Thank you, Randi. Having spent my life as an educator this is certainly an area that interests me. I can’t wait to begin my research and give it a try.

  24. Ingrid Boydston YES! I first fell in love with picture books when I taught 6th grade! Not, K, 6th! Picture books can provide such lovely, fun doorways into many subjects that might be other wise difficult to invite students into. Thanks for your words of wisdom and the practical advice on how to actually create these types of rhyming picture books!

  25. DebbieLubbert I just saw the House book somewhere recently. Didn’t read it, but will have to go look for it again. Thanks for the post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s