Rhyming books are by far my favourite type of children’s book, but did you know rhyme is really important for helping young children develop language and literacy skills?
In this special guest post, children’s book author Dr Niamh outlines some of the benefits of rhyme and rhythm for our children…
As a child, I remember learning nursery rhymes sung to me by my mother. Not only did her soft, lilting Galway accent transfix me, the rhythm of hardly-understood-words elicited an autogenic body response. I wanted to dance, keep time, join in.
How many of us who learned nursery rhymes in childhood knew what we were singing about? The importance of nursery rhyme isn’t about meaning, it’s about sound and rhythm.
Early literacy skills
Research into early literacy skills shows the importance of rhythm and rhyme. Developing literacy skills begin with listening and verbalising rather than reading and writing. That comes later. If children do not have a good grasp of phonics and are unable to discriminate sounds and rhyming patterns in an audible way, it will prove much more difficult for them to recognise words by sight.
Stories written in rhyme and rhythm help our children develop auditory discrimination, listening skills, a rich and broad vocabulary, a love of words for the sake of themselves, concentration skills, phonemic awareness, a love of books (as, hearing your voice, they come to associate reading with love and affection) poetry skills (which stimulate later imaginative, descriptive skills – so great for future composition).
Personally, I favour slightly wacky, way-out rhyme that doesn’t necessarily have to make sense.
What about this from Spike Milligan?
(My daughter’s favourite nonsense poem as a child – she still loves it and we taught it to my granddaughter).
On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
And the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!
And many of us loved Dr Seuss:
I meant what I said
And I said what I meant….
An elephant’s faithful
One hundred per cent!
And it should be,
It should be, it SHOULD be
Because Horton was faithful!
He sat and he sat!
“My goodness! My gracious!”
They shouted. “MY WORD!
It’s something brand new!
IT’S AN ELEPHANT-BIRD!!”
And what about Lewis Caroll’s Jabberwocky? – Probably inspired Roald Dahl
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!” …
It’s not about making sense!
Children love the madness and surprise of rhyme for its sound and out-of-the-box imaginative possibility. Anything goes. It’s fun and challenging! We reach them on their own lever of communication. We enter into their world. Small children don’t HAVE to understand the vocabulary. But it goes in subliminally.
Remember the Frozen phenomenon when little girls of 3 were singing about “frozen fractals?” They certainly didn’t understand what they were singing about but could recite every word of that song by heart. It was the sound and the rhythm that counted, and we shouldn’t underestimate what our children are capable of remembering and reciting!
This is why I have written a new personalised children’s book in rhyme. Beware: unlike many personalised, bandwagon books, this has plenty of content and is a serious teaching book that’s fun, a keepsake that harks back to the days of classic rhyme! Not only is this personalised alphabet book written in rhyme, the rhyme itself is written in phonics so that each letter of the alphabet develops a personality of its own. For example:
Through the paddock did pop. P p p
Picked up a pumpkin
Pride of the crop. P p p
Pushing the P
Through puckered-up lips
Dylan was certain
Of pie with his chips. P p p
I have used as many verbs, adjectives and adverbs that begin with P or end with P, as each carefully chosen word places different emphases on the phonic, as well as including the repeated phonic sound of P itself.
Find My Name In The Alphabet Train is an adventure into the alphabet with favourite characters saying each alphabet sound. Your little one will also discover which special letters (and sounds) are found in his/her own name.
Dr Niamh is author of personalised children’s book Find My Name in the Alphabet Train.
For more details visit www.drniamhchildrensbooks.com
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