Write Rebus Stories for Children

Teachers use rebus stories to teach vocabulary and sentence structure. Children’s magazines also publish rebus stories, and are a potential market for publication.

Rebus stories, or rebus puzzles, replace common nouns and parts of words with pictures. for example, in a rebus story about a cat the word "cat" will be replaced by a picture of a cat. In a rebus puzzle, the word "Sunday" will be replaced with a picture of a sun plus the word "day." The "puzzle" in a rebus puzzle comes from compound words where children must sound out the picture plus letters to read a multisyllabic word. like Mad Libs, rebus stories are very short and can be used to reinforce reading, grammar and vocabulary skills.

Why Write a Rebus Story?

While it’s true there aren’t hundreds of rebus story books published each year, many children’s magazines publish rebus stories every month. There’s a steady market for rebus, and having a rebus story published in a major children’s magazine is a welcome credit for many writers.

The pay scale for a rebus story is usually low, but considering the short length of the story it’s not low per word at the larger magazines. Rebus story markets can be found on several websites aimed at children’s magazine writers or in the Writer’s Digest annual guide, Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

In addition to getting a byline, writing a rebus story is a good way to practice writing condensed pieces. like poetry, every word counts with rebus. a typical story is 120 words or less, and those words have to hold the interest of a young reader. a well written rebus story will entertain and it may also contain a lesson, so the short form is a definite writing challenge.

Another reason to write rebus is because it’s a good teaching tool. for any writers who also teach, or who spend time with children, writing rebus stories with children can be a learning exercise. Write a rebus story with a child and have them pick out all the words they can draw pictures for. It will reinforce the child’s connection between the word and the object.

Basic Rebus Writing Rules

  • Keep the concepts and words simple enough for a young child to understand.
  • Write the rebus story first, then decide which words to replace with pictures.
  • Repeat the same word/picture several times. Repetition will help reinforce the image-word connection for children.
  • If teaching older children to write their own rebus stories, challenge them to think of complex words and phrases that can be expressed with multiple pictures.

Whether writing for publication or education, writing rebus stories for children can be a good writing exercise and a lot of fun for both the author and the reader. Rebus stories can even be great projects for parents and children to work on together, whether for publication or not.

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