Tuesday, February 5, 2013

#readitmummiesanddaddies2013 - Writing for Children's Books - Reason behind the Rhyme

Where there's a rhyme, there's a reason!
We've always been aware of how effective rhyming verse is in helping children to read, learn and memorise. Most of the best loved Children's Picture Books contain rhyming verse - and a child's predisposition to retaining the memory of written or read text through rhyme starts as soon as they can hear and understand a parent's speech.

Reinforced through nursery rhymes, songs and of course children's books, children do begin to learn to read more quickly if common sounds and clever use of language engage their ears as well as their brains.

There's a great piece on the Booktrust website about early literacy initiatives and studies into how rhyming helps children's literacy levels early on. It's a sentiment echoed by many children's authors too, who use rhyme in their own work to make it accessible, memorable and most important of all, fun!

It goes without saying that one of the greatest children's authors, Dr Seuss, used often nonsensical rhyme so brilliantly and effectively in a whole series of children's books that have gone on to become legendary classics. It was well known even back as far as the 1950s that rhyme provided a compelling and attractive way for early readers to become more competent and confident.

Oddly though, it's very rare to see rhyming verse used in children's phonics books. Though there are programmes that recommend the use of rhyme, current national curriculum standards seem to be geared more towards fairly disjointed 'choppy' text that doesn't flow like rhyming verse does. Sometimes, to a child this feels too unnatural, and very unlike books they'd otherwise be exposed to (for instance, books read to them by a parent, or even early story readers that use rhyme effectively).

This is a problem we've encountered before with Charlotte - that even the most intriguing subject or premise in a phonics book is still a fairly stilted and 'forced' experience, so again this may offer a good indication of why rhyme is so attractive to children - if it's as far distant from classroom reading as it's possible to imagine, it's all the more interesting to a child.

We are completely in awe of anyone who can produce brilliant rhyming stories. We'd love to hear what your favourite rhyming recommendations are below.


isabelthomas said...

At the moment my boys (4, 2, baby) love Dragon Stew, Down the Back of the Chair, Tim Ted & The Pirates, and Animals Aboard. The last one is clever because the rhythm changes to mimic a train journey. I've also just bought a big Puffin book of first poems, but I have never tried reading short poems to them before so will be interesting to find out what they make of it.

I love reading rhyming books aloud, it seems easy and fun. The boys seem to learn them off by heart very quickly too. This is fun when they can 'read' along with me at home. But I wonder if it's one reason reading schemes avoid rhyme - it would be difficult to tell if the child was reading it, or had learned it off by heart. I was a Reading Recovery tutor for a bit, and I was amazed to see how some children learn to hide the fact that they are struggling with reading by learning the texts as an adult reads and reciting them.

ReadItDaddy said...

We absolutely loved "Down the Back of the Chair" too, will definitely be looking out for Animals Aboard too.

Very good point about the 'learning by heart' thing. I guess it would be a pointless exercise if children 'skipped' the stage of breaking down and learning something through decoding, but merely skipped to remembering and reciting. Thought it would be very useful for sounds and linked letters like 'oo' and 'eu' - where a sound is spelt differently but sounds the same.

Kids do love poetical stuff though, particularly nonsense poems! C is a massive fan of those, the sillier the better :)