Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Rhyme time

I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Chanting stories, poems, made up rhymes, or silly songs in early childhood can help prepare your child for later reading success. Hearing rhymes from birth help prepare a child to later recognize rhymes. By preschool age, many children can create rhymes by playing simple rhyming games.
Playing rhyming games and playing with words in early childhood builds brain power!!! Rhyming activities stimulate Area A of the brain. This area (located near your left temple) has a neural system for articulating spoken words. (I am not a brain scientist ;) I just read about this in Dr. J. Richard Gentry's book-- see resources). Playing with rhyming words will strengthen that area of the brain.
Rhyming activities also help children realize that phonograms (word families) can represent the same sound in different words. Experts agree that when a child learns 37 phonograms (like -at, -ick, -ill, etc.) he can make 500 different words out of those phonograms.
Rhyming is important in early childhood! But when is a child ready to hear rhymes, play with rhymes, and create rhymes? While it may vary from child to child, a child's progression of skills may look something like this:
  • has a concept of a word
  • has a concept for rhyme
  • has the ability to rhyme
  • has the ability to separate sounds.

Strategies for Improving Rhyming Abilities:
 Play with Rhymes:
  • Begin introducing rhymes with your newborn baby. Hold the baby close, engage eye contact, let the baby see your lips and face. When you say a rhyming word, engage in some sort of movement-- maybe lightly tickle the babies toes.
  • When reading poems and rhymes to toddlers, give your toddler a high five for every rhyming word!
  • Before your child can say a whole rhyme, he can fill in the rhyming word in a rhyme. Allow your preschooler to shout out the word as you pause in a rhyme.
  • Read nursery rhymes- list rhyming words. For example in Jack and Jill, list Jill and hill. Ask, "What rhymes with Jill and starts with 'p'?"
  • For older children (beginning readers) play riddle games- "I'm thinking of a word that begins with b and rhymes with cat."

Use Manipulatives to rhyme:
  • I was going to tell you about rhyming pictures matching games, and sorting games, and rhyming bingo... and then, I remembered this post by Teach Mama, in which she explains all of those wonderful rhyming games and links you to free printables!! You don't have to create any of it. Is she wonderful, or what? Serious love for Teach Mama (and the weteach network).
  • Use magnetic letters or letter tiles with older children. After children have mastered matching rhyming picture pairs, pull out your magnetic letters and show children how to make 2 rhyming words (cat/hat) and then how to change the first letter to make a new word.
Share books with Rhymes:
When choosing books with rhyme, continue to share materials full of meaning. This lets your child know that he will be using word families to decode in regular text and not just to decode little phonics readers. Here just a few suggestions of the types of books you might use.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (so often requested in our home, that it has been committed to memory by all family members except the baby- see selection above).
The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss
The Magic Hat by Mem Fox
Zoo-Looking by Mem Fox
Also, Michelle, at Beginning Reading help recently posted this list of rhyming books.
Sing rhyming songs
Songs are repetative and the repetition builds those rhyming abilities. Songs are easy to remember which makes them useful for teaching rhyme. Songs are fun. Even if you can't sing, your child will enjoy sharing a song with you. Since most songs rhyme, and song and any style will do. Introduce your child to a wide variety of music and songs!
If you are interested in songs that are appropriate for children, here are a few free websites:

One final thought, I read this quote in Reading Begins at Home by Dorthy Butler and Marie Clay and loved it. "Ideas about reading are more readily caught than taught in the very early years." Don't feel that you have to have formal lessons on rhyming. Playing with words informally will build the inferior frontal gyrus of your child's brain... and your child will never even know you were trying to build his brain power!!

Reading Begins at Home, Second Edition: Preparing Children Before They Go to School

Improving Reading: Interventions, Strategies, and Resources W/ CD

Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write--from Baby to Age 7


  1. Thanks for sharing my list of rhyming books.

    Teach Mama's rhyme games are great! The We Teach Ning she created is my favorite online group!

    I recently purchased the book, Raising Confident Readers, you linked to in your resources. It's a helpful parent guide.

    I see you've mentioned using magnetic letters. Here's a post I wrote showing a great way to organize magnetic letters.

    Nice post! You are making a difference even if a few parents put some of your advice into practice.

  2. I LOVE when I read one of your posts and realize that it's something that I already do with my kids. It makes me feel so smart. :)

    My kids LOVE to rhyme. Even 2-year-old Kellen. The words that he comes up with aren't always actual words, but the more we do it, the better he gets. The rhymes that my 5-year-old comes up with now are amazing. I always joke that half the time she talks in "Seuss." I need to just record everything she says and write a book.

  3. LOVe this post, my friend!! You are too sweet to link back to me--thanks for all you do; your blog is SUCH a fab resource!!

  4. Rhyming is such fun :)

    We have always read lots of Dr Seuss in our house (Mumma & Dadda have different favourites, I prefer narratives, he prefers word fun) and we have often sat at the dinner table thinking of as many rhyming words as we can. I love how the little ones will come up with lots of silly "words" just so they can contribute. :)

  5. I think the third point under Play is one of the most useful tools in a parents bag of tricks. Making rhymes fun like this pays such dividends. Another similar idea I do is to deliberately say something crazy like "sausage" instead of the correct rhyming word. Kids love to put me right!