We all know that reading to children out loud is important. But reading rhyming picture books to preschoolers can have a lifelong impact on their reading skills and love of books.
One area that reading books in rhyme can improve is memorization skills. Think how easily we remember rhyming songs and commercials. Did you learn the alphabet by singing “The Alphabet Song?” One company, Twin Sisters Productions, has built their business on the premise that children remember what they learn better when they can sing about subjects in rhyme. They have produced musical rhyming songs about such things as letters, numbers, colors, transportation, and more.
Phonological awareness is defined as the ability to distinguish sounds. This is the very beginning of learning how to read. According to Lindsay Knobelauch, M.Ed, CCC-SLP, “Phonological awareness is important because it is a basis for reading. Children begin to read by listening to others read aloud, then recognizing sounds in words, sounding words out for themselves, recognizing familiar words, and so on. By engaging in word play, children learn to recognize patterns among words and use this knowledge to read and build words.”
There are many ways to reinforce this word play to help children recognize rhythms and patterns that lead to word recognition. One way is to clap out individual words or individual syllables within words. Other ways are to ask what sounds a child hears at the end or beginning of a word or having them blend two sounds together, such as “Pan-da.”
Try singing the rhymes in a book by using familiar tunes. For example, the picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? can be sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
As a parent or grandparent or a teacher or librarian, make sure you include a lot of rhyming books as you read to your particular kids. Besides Brown Bear, some great titles include the following: Bear SnoresOn by Karma Wilson, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site, by Tom Lichtenheld, Llama, Llama, Red Pajamaby Anna Dewdney, and any or all of the books by Dr. Seuss. Traditional nursery rhymes are also a good source.
For musical rhyming based on books, one of the best collections on CD is from The Learning Station.
If you are a writer who wants to write rhyming picture books, read all of the published ones you can find, as well as books on how to write a good book in rhyme. Make sure you know all the different formats of rhyme and stick to them strictly. Rhymes should be exact, especially if you are not a well-published author. And, as always, practice makes perfect and getting your work critiqued is invaluable.
Whether you read to children or write for them, sharing rhyming picture books with preschoolers is one sure way to help them along the pathway to becoming successful readers and lifelong learners.