Yellow cartoonish Book with blue outlineListen to Mathu read this post!

In its earliest stages, learning to read is all about recognizing patterns and sounds. Particularly if they are learning through a phonics-based approach, a huge part of early literacy involves being able to listen carefully to the sounds that make up words, and to match those sounds to letters. One way to prepare children for this task is to read them rhyming stories. Rhymes foster children’s ability to recognize patterns, syllables, and repeated sounds, all of which are essential for learning how to read.

The following picture rhyming books are both entertaining and educational, fostering everything from basic skills to socio emotional learning. They are a lot of fun for children to listen to, and for adults to read out loud. In addition to preparing your child for school, reading together is a great way for families to bond.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

Gerald is a giraffe who wants to enter the annual jungle dance contest. Unfortunately, his long neck and troublesome knees make him a terrible dancer. After humiliating himself, Gerald drags himself into the jungle, where he meets a wise cricket who teaches Gerald how to accept himself how he is – and how to dance to his own tune.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beatty

The latest addition to the Questioneer’s Series, Sofia Valez, Future Prez is the story of a second grade girl who wants to change her community. The perfect book for budding activists, or for children who could use a dose of courage before a particularly challenging time.

Under My Hijab, by Hena Khan

In this beautifully illustrated book, a Muslim girl pays tribute to the women in her family through rhyming verse. The narrator of Under My Hijab describes how the women she loves express themselves through the way they wear her hijabs, ending with her choice about how she is going to cover. All of Khan’s picture books are rhyming celebrations of Muslim culture that are delightful to read.

Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong

Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes is one of a series of books about basic concepts like colors, numbers, and shapes rooted in Mexican culture. Each of the examples – such as circular tortillas – teaches children a new shape, while also celebrating Mexican traditions. Thong also has a similar series about Chinese culture that begins with the title Round is a Mooncake.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

This gorgeously illustrated rhyming book traces a typical week for a slave in New Orleans. At the end of the week, slaves gathered to play music and dance in Congo Square, a landmark that you can still visit today. The text of Freedom in Congo Square, is rhythmic and so much fun to read, and it’s a great introduction to Black history that artfully combines resistance with joy. 


Mathangi Subramanian, Ed.D., believes stories have the power to change the world. Her middle grades book, Dear Mrs. Naidu, won the South Asia Book Award, and her picture book A Butterfly Smile was inducted into the Nobel Museum by Laureate Dr. Esther Duflo. Her novel A People’s History of Heaven was longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner award, a finalist for the LAMBDA literary award, and named a Skipping Stones Honors Book. A former public school teacher, senior policy analyst at the New York City Council, and Fulbright Scholar, she currently consults for Sesame Workshop. She holds a doctorate in education from Columbia Teachers College.