Sunday, October 20, 2013

Make Any Time Rhyming Time

I recently ran into a mom who felt that nursery rhymes were too “old fashioned” for her child. That has motivated me to share a piece of information that has been in this blog before but clearly bears repeating for today’s audience.

Reading requires something called “phonemic awareness,” a component that is one of the more challenging prereading skills that young children must master. What is it? Quite simply, it’s the awareness that the words they hear people say—even single syllable words like “cat”—are actually made up of individual sounds that are quickly combined: “ka+ah+t”. Kids gradually catch on; however, researchers have discovered that there is an easy way to speed the process along: listening to nursery rhymes and other simple poems and songs. In one classic study, researchers in England found that the greater a child’s knowledge of nursery rhymes, the more phonemically aware the child was. Why? Because the fact that rhyming words share their final sound draws attention to the existence of individual sounds in words. And what make this finding even more significant is that the greater a child’s phonemic awareness, the better his subsequent reading skills.

The lesson is clear. To help your baby start reaping the benefits of rhyming from the moment she is born, sing her to sleep with lullabies. Include songs and games with lots of rhyming words in your daily interactions. Captivate her attention by emphasizing the rhyming word pairs. Keep his enthusiasm up by substituting family names into the rhymes (e.g, “Daddy and Julia when up the hill….”). Use pictures of several objects with rhyming names to make a homemade mobile to hang over her crib or picture to tape to the wall. And don’t forget that tongue twisters (like the ever popular “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…”) works in a similar way but focused on initial rather than ending sounds.

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


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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