Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How Rhyming Aids Reading

Here at Baby Signs, we know that there’s more to helping children prosper than just teaching them to sign. That’s why we developed a set of classes for children from Birth to age 6 called “On the Grow™” classes (check them out at www.babysigns.com). It was while I was working of the curriculum for the latest one of these where we teach parents and children the ASL signs for the alphabet (“ABC Sign with Me!) that it occurred to me that this blog might be a good place to share a few fun tips about helping children learn to read.

Preparation for learning to read can, and in fact should, start very early. One pre-reading skill that’s easy and fun to work on is “Phonemic Awareness.” What this fancy term refers to is the simple recognition that words are made up of separate sounds—for example, the word “cat” is made up of the separate sounds “Ca + Aa + Ta. Because the job of letters is to represent these separate sounds, being able to recognize that words are divisible in this way is obviously an important component of learning to read.

Well, an easy and fun way to help children develop phonemic awareness is to introduce them to lots of nursery rhymes and simple poems. Here’s why. Words rhyme precisely because they share their ending sounds but not their beginning sounds and poems help make these words and their sound similarities and differences stand out so children are more likely to notice. Listen to this old classic:

Humpty, Dumpty sat on the WALL
Humpty, Dumpty had a great FALL
All the king’s horses and all the kings MEN
Couldn’t put humpty together AGAIN.

Research from the University of Oxford in England actually found that 3-year-olds who knew lots of nursery rhymes were more advanced in phonemic awareness than those children who did not—and therefore were on the road to reading at an accelerated pace.

So dust off your copies of Mother Goose and give it a go. You’ll not only be having fun, but also helping your child develop a critical ingredient necessary for learning to read.

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, PhD.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC
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