So this is a second post starting with a question, but this is what prompted me to post. Today during our rhyming activity, a parent asked incredulously if rhymes really helped children. What good are rhymes? So I thought I’d discuss some of the ways rhyming helps children with their literacy skills.
Rhyming words help children increase their awarenesses of the sounds that make up words–this is called phonological awareness. The elements that repeat in rhymes are phonemes, they are similar sounds even if they are spelled different. Children who can identify words that rhyme and invent or look for more words using those sounds are demonstrating a grasp of how language works. Phonemes are the building blocks of language, and students who can grasp sounds can understand words.
A simple rhyme demonstrates this concept–it uses rhyme and invented words to help children trace the patterns and identify the phonomes, this is particularly good for groups of kids:
“Wibbly wobbly wee, and elephant sat on me.
Wibbly wobbly woo, an elephant sat on you.
Wibbly wobbly woosan, an elephant sat on Susan.
Wibbly wobbly wicheal, an elephant sat on Micheal.”
Some children will be able to follow the pattern to see what the next word will be, and others will understand the way the phonemes are being used. This pattern and repetitiveness is why rhyming is one reason while rhyming is important.
The ready to read skills that rhyming helps develop include: phonological awareness, narrative structure, print awareness, and book motivation. These skills can be seen in a set of simple word rhymes:
Cat, Bat, Hat, Rat.
Each of these simple words rhymes, and differs in their spelling by one single letter. Children who know their letters and some sounds can identify these words when prompted. “C makes a “cuuu” sound, which word has a C at the beginning? or Can you see a C on the page?” The sense of achievement when children place each rhyming image next to the word is a great motivator. A story with rhymes at specific places in the sentence allows children to anticipate what is going to happen next.
For all of these reasons, and for their pure enjoyment value, rhymes are an excellent tool for children young and old to learn or continue to learn language and literacy skills. It is why so many books and poems continue to include rhymes in so many ways!