Why Rhymes Are Important When Learning To Read

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Do you sing rhymes to your child? I bet you do, whether it is in your native tongue or in English.

What do you do when you sing rhymes?

  1. You interact with your child and she responds to you.
  2. You give her vocabulary that isn’t part of your everyday conversation.
  3. You make some gestures or actions that correspond to the rhyme and teach your child to imitate these until she learns to do these on her own.
  4. These gestures and actions develop her understanding of the new vocabulary words.
  5. Most important of all the two of you bond as you do this shared activity together.

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So you’ve been developing her social, motor, language and cognitive skills. Did you know you were also developing her future reading skills? You read it right, when you were singing these nursery rhymes with your child you were laying the ground work for her reading and spelling ability.

What does singing rhymes or reading rhyming books have to do with a child’s ability to read?

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Let’s look at what makes two words rhyme first, shall we?

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,

How I Wonder What You Are!

Up Above the World So High,

Like A Diamond In The Sky.

When you say the words aloud, Star and Are have the same ending sounds as do High and Sky. How do you sing these rhymes? With a lilting rhythm, isn’t it? When you sing these rhymes with your child you are actually encouraging her to listen and identify a pattern in the words. Here the pattern is that the ending of these words sound the same. At her age she doesn’t know that Star and Are have different spellings but she can hear the similarity in the ending of these words.

Rhyming is one of the earlier set of Phonological Awareness skills that children develop as emergent readers. Rhyming teaches children to attend to sounds in spoken language. When your child can hear that Star rhymes with Are but not with What, she is able to detect what is similar and different in these words—an important skill in learning to read and spell.

You can highlight rhymes whether you sing with your child or read a rhyming book. Does your child enjoy books by Dr. Seuss? From ‘The Cat in a Hat’ to ‘There’s a Wocket in my Pocket’ these books engage your children while exposing them to how sounds in words can be manipulated, within a meaningful context. When you read a rhyming book, just point out how two words rhyme. “Hey, I hear two words that rhyme—cat and hat! They both have the same sound at the end.” There! You’ve directed her attention to what is similar in those two words.

Does that mean you have to have a ‘rhyming time’ like homework time? For children to be motivated these reading experiences must be fun. So set aside time to read with your child and utilize the opportunities which arise naturally when you read. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself when you read or sing rhymes with your child. That shared experience will make your child learn the skill faster than a rhyming drill.

Some ideas on rhyming:

Five Fun Rhyming Activities To Do At Home

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