Rebus books, sometimes called picture readers, tell a story/rhyme in a combination of text and symbols. These symbols may be small pictures, icons, or even geometric shapes but all cases they represent the word/words that are typically displayed below them. (See example of a Mother Goose rhyme done in rebus-style below.) Rebus books help promote the connection of text to their meaning, which can help readers in a few different ways.
By representing nouns as pictures, rebus books allow children to target specific sight words. For example, character names in many tv show/movie tie-in books, like for Star Wars or the Disney films, are hard for beginning readers to sound out and read in print. However, fans of these series can easily say the character names if shown a picture of them. In a rebus book, more complex nouns have their image added to them so the child is able to easily decode them and work on the sight words used in-between the nouns.
Another benefit to rebus books are that the images provide definitions for words beginning readers may not know. Some nouns are a bit outside today’s typical lexicon- particularly in traditional nursery rhymes. For example, “whey” in the rhyme of “Little Miss Muffet” is not something most kids will be familiar will. However, an image of a bowl with the porridge/cereal-like substance will give the word context.
Reading is one of the 5 early literacy practices supported by Every Child Ready to Read®. Rebus books have been around for a while and they seem to continually to be one of the best kept secrets that help emerging readers- plus they are a whole lot of fun! Check out and read a rebus book together!
Every Child Ready to Read® is a project of the Association for Library Service to Children and the Public Library Association, divisions of the American Library Association.