Rhymes are fun for everyone, so share some poems in your homes

Tracey Finck,  Reading Corps Literacy Tutor
Tracey Finck,
Reading Corps Literacy Tutor

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star, /How I wonder what you ….”
Your mind automatically filled in the blank with the word “are,” right? The rhyme is irresistible. And Jane Taylor’s poem “The Star” (public domain) is so often sung as a lullaby that many of us have known it by heart it since we were children. My copy of this poem is in a tattered old book called “Poems to Read to the Very Young.” I treasure this thin volume because it carries cozy memories of my mother reading from it to me at bedtime.
The next two lines are magical: “Up above the world so high, / Like a diamond in the ….”
You probably would finish the line with the word “sky” even if you had never actually heard the poem before. Not only is it the logical word to finish the sentence, but it also rhymes with ‘high,’ so it satisfies our ears.
Rhymes are pleasing to the ear and to the mind.
Lyrics of popular songs rhyme. Advertisers use rhyme to make their jingles unforgettable. The stories of our heroes, says Gina Kolata, “are often relayed in rhymes. The first patriot Americans remember is usually Paul Revere: ‘One if by land, two if by sea. And I on the opposite shore will be.’ In the Vietnam era, rhymes of protest became devastating taunts: ‘Hey, hey, L.B.J., how many kids did you kill today?’” (from “Rhyme’s Reasons: Linking Thinking to Train the Brain,” nytimes.com)
Teachers use rhymes to help students remember important information: “ABCDEFG rhymes with HIJKLMNOP.” Rhymes can also make it easier for children to remember what is expected of them. At school, I overhear teachers clapping in rhythm to get their students’ attention: “Clap, clap! Clap, clap, clap!” The kids respond in unison: “One, two! Eyes on you!” This simple strategy works because kids delight to shout out the rhyme.
Rhymes are also a way to help kids become better readers.
One of the interventions that Reading Corps uses to help young readers get a stronger grasp on the way language works is a rhyming activity. Earlier today I sat with a first-grader asking her to tell me which two words rhymed out of a group of three words. For example, I would say, “Which of these two words sound alike? Duck. Cow. Truck.” The ability to distinguish sounds is called phonemic awareness, and it’s a crucial skill for beginning readers.
How can you help young children increase their phonemic awareness? Read them books with rhyming words. Doctor Seuss is a good choice. So are nursery rhymes.
“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight (Fox, M., 2001, Reading Magic, quoted on kbyueleven.org).
As you spend time with family this holiday season, consider reading some poems aloud. Even if children don’t understand all the words, they’ll enjoy the rhymes. And exposure to rich vocabulary will help them become better readers. You can find some poems to share at familyfriendpoems.com/poems/famous/children.