Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rhyme Helps Reading

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle, was one of my Kindergarten students' favourite books. It was simple, it was effective, it worked. We used it as a model for class and individual stories, tapped out its rhythm on our desks, and read it for pleasure many times.

Dr Seuss books, Mem Fox's Time for Bed and several collections of rhymes and poetry enthused my students, and encouraged them to read along. After a while, they began to predict the rhyming word, and join in any refrains, too. Luckily, the kids hadn't read the advice to writers which tells them not to bother writing a rhyming picture book.

I believe good quality, short, rhyming picture books are necessary in children's lives as an intermediate step to reading. After listening to one being read aloud several times, children unconsciously memorize it. They inevitably pick up the book and "read' it aloud from memory. They begin to notice the words on a page and relate them to what they are saying. This process is made possible because we humans are wired to remember rhyme, and have a huge capacity for it.

My students loved rhyme. They begged me to read their favourite poems, and our shared and guided reading books were often in rhyme. Whenever the opportunity arose, I celebrated the joy of language by pointing out examples of delightful humour, or words with similar sounds or shapes. I wrote many plays for performance in rhyme. After several practices, each student usually knew the whole play by heart, and could take on any role with confidence.

And what a boon that was, when chicken pox decimated the class!


  1. You picked some gems in the rhyming collection. But I can tell you from experience, there is A LOT of slag, too. Rhyming books work when there is a smooth, predictable pattern. I can't tell you how many books I've read where not only is the rhyme forced, it's not a rhyme! My little listener doesn't want to hear hiccups while I try to figure out the cadence. Or the cadence shifts with each spread.

    Rhyming books can be great, but they should be road-tested by people not directly related to the author.

    Recent blog post: National Library Week: Books for Your Classroom Library

  2. Absolutely agree, Terry. I guess my description" good quality" wasn't really detailed enough - the rhythm and the rhyme have to be perfect for it to work.

    Recent blog post: Rhyme Helps Reading

  3. students of the 6th4 from Alvide in Portugal15 April, 2009

    hey we have a surprise for you!
    Visit us please


  4. Obrigada for the award, Students!

  5. Corey Schwartz18 April, 2009

    I couldn't agree more!

    Recent blog post: Last Night at Bedtime

  6. Thanks, Corey.

    Recent blog post: Book Review, A Proper Little Lady

  7. My children loved this book! Eric Carle has many wonderful books. You can find a fascinating Newsweek article about him at this link: http://www.newsweek.com/id/189230

    You sound like a wonderful teacher. I'm sure that you could make any book fun for students to read!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Recent blog post: Friday Photo Fun: We've Fallen, But We Can Get Up


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