Rhyming Picture Book Revolution!

I’m gonna be part of the revolution!

That’s right! I’m going to my first children’s picture book conference. This one is all about those of us who like to write–and publish–using rhythm and rhyme. My people!

Believe it or not, writers are discouraged from submitting rhyming manuscripts for picture books, and editors are leery of accepting even good ones. (This bias occurs in the poetry world for grown-ups too, although not to the same degree.) Why?

Well, writing in rhyme means writing in meter, and that’s hard. It’s very common to do either, or both, poorly. When an editor is faced with an inbox full of manuscripts, weeding out the ones that rhyme is an easy way to reduce the slush pile.

At the same time, editors and publishers say that rhyming books are difficult to translate into other languages, so foreign sales are reduced.

Makes sense, from an investment standpoint.

But let’s talk about investing in kids for a minute. In readers. Rhyme and rhythm connect the written word to the oral tradition, how history, religion, culture has been passed down through the ages.

Rhyme, rhythm, and repetition are important tools in developing literacy. “Rhymers are Readers” is a great primer on how exactly nursery rhymes affect children’s developing language skills. Here’s a great quotation from the article by Tony Snead, senior national literacy consultant for Mondo Publishing in New York:

“Listening comprehension precedes reading comprehension,” Mr. Stead said. “In order for a child to understand what they are reading, they have to be able to hear the language first. A lot of the traditional rhymes, such as ‘Jack and Jill’ and ‘Humpty Dumpty,’ were repetitious and allowed us to memorize basic structures and patterns in the English language, then put it together. It’s important that young children learn to memorize through verse.”

Hear, hear! My thanks to Angie Karcher and her great blog post, Is Writing Rhyme a Fairy Tale? Her post led me to these articles, to the conference, and to the revolution!

It feels great to write what I love with the hope that someday, it might help kids become great readers. I look forward to meeting other writers, editors, and agents who feel the same way!