by: Bethany Morton-Gannaway
The two little words that have caused fierce-fought battles among literary peers.
“Rhyming is good. Rhyming is bad. Rhyming is dumbing down children’s reading experiences.
Rhyming enhances children’s reading experiences.”
Finally, the “To rhyme, or not to rhyme” debate comes to an end.
Being an author who writes the majority of my children’s books in rhyme, I felt it was time to share my opinion of why I feel children’s rhyming books are a valuable tool for learning. Not only a valuable tool, but quite a necessary one too.
First, I should start by sharing that I LOVED reading as a child. From my earliest years, it was common practice for me to beg my mom to read to me at night. Probably the same as most children. But I was never content with just one book. On an average night my mom was reading up to 5, 6, and 7 books a night.
And if she tried to skip a page I would call her out on it right away. Pretty soon she realized that she was NOT going to get away with not reading the ENTIRE book.
I am thankful for the time my mother spent reading to me. I believe I am here now, doing this (what I love) because of her. I loved all sorts of books. Not all of them rhymed, but a lot of them did. Among my favorites, The Bernstein Bears, Little Golden Books, Country Critters, Little Bear and I also loved chapter books. One of my favorite authors, of course, was Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss. What an inspiration!
Did you know? His first book was rejected by 27 publishers before it was picked up by Vanguard Press!
Dr. Seuss is loved by many. He is an icon of literary and artistic genius. However, the man was disliked by as many as loved him. He broke the rules and broke them without excuse or apology. And society is often uncomfortable when rules are broken.
Personally, I think Dr. Seuss was brilliant. Yes, he made up words quite often. But let’s be honest, shall we? With his reputation and success, the man earned the right to bend the rules. Perhaps it is that very quality that makes me love him so much. He broke the rules of literature.
A lot of my favorite poets and authors are rule breakers. Take E. E. Cummings for instance. The man redefined how poetry was written, and how many people hated him for it?
Dr. Seuss was the ultimate creative. His illustrations draw children into the story. His sing-songy prose guarantees that a child will never forget the words they are reading.
If I were to say to you:
One Fish. Two Fish.
Red Fish. Blue Fish.
Even people who have never read Dr. Seuss know the phrase. He was a genius in my book. And his works are a legacy, obviously still as popular today as they were when he first became popular.
So when I sit down to write a story, it typically writes itself. Right away I know if it will be in rhyme or not. Most of the time my mind thinks in rhyme.
(My husband always teases me that I would make a great freestyle rapper. Maybe one day I will try it. The sky is the limit!)
Children need to be taught in rhyme whenever possible. Here’s why:
So the question remains: Why should children be exposed to rhyming books? Here are some reasons why I feel it is imperative for children to read in rhyme. These points also the explanation of why I write in rhyme.
(The information provided below has come from two very credible sources. I must give credit to GemmLearning.com and PBS.org for putting into words what is in my heart.)
Rhyme enhances the child’s ability to break words down into smaller words. When a child is learning to read, the ability to break words down into smaller words makes it possible for the child to tackle new words. This is called better phonemic awareness.
Improves Memorization Skills.
Improves Comprehension of Sequencing.
Increases Conversation and Articulatory Skills
Helps child to learn the rhythm of the written and spoken word. Rhyming sounds cool to kids and makes them happy. They want to read rhyming books because they are fun and they give them the opportunity to develop inflection in their voices. They can also hear the differences in the sounds, which furthers their reading development.
Increases the ability to spell new words. Once a child learns word families, spelling comes easier too. When a new word is spoken, it becomes easier for a child to spell the word because the sounds within the word have already been learned.
Increases Enthusiasm for Reading because we all love a silly rhyme pattern.
Develops Writing Abilities Earlier.
Creates a fun environment to learn word families such as den, ben, ten, men, and pen. Word families are the basis of language. When children realizes that similar sounds are found in words they have heard before, they build a library of sounds in their brain. And that creates the development of language. If the letter e in the word ben sounds like eh, it may also sound like eh in the word tenfold.
Enhances Understanding of Correct Punctuation.
Preserves a culture tradition that spans generations. In the early centuries, when mankind wanted to pass on its history, those histories were usually passed on through songs, lyrics, and rhyme. Rhyme provided something in common among parents, grandparents and kids—and also between people who didn’t know each other. Seth Lerer, Humanities Professor at the University of California San Diego and expert in the history of children’s literature, says that reading nursery rhymes to kids is a way “to participate in a long tradition … it’s a shared ritual, there’s almost a religious quality to it.”
Most important: They are FUN to read!
I hope that gave you a little insight into the value of rhyme in our culture and why I am passionate about creating children’s books that teach, entertain, and instruct in the fabulous tradition of rhyme!
Now…It is time for me to run away and I hope that you have an amazing day!