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Why Your Child Needs Poems, Rhymes and Songs

Dorothy Massey

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I'll bet you can still remember nursery rhymes and songs you learned as a child. And I'll bet you've passed them on to your own children and/or grandchildren too. These rhymes and songs play a major role in our upbringing, as do fairy tales, myths and legends.

Rhythm and rhyme.

Early rhymes and songs help children see that language has patterns. Even very young children can identify words with similar endings. As you read or speak rhymes to them they soon begin to anticipate these rhyming words. They also begin to recognise the beat or the rhythm of the poem or song, which is useful in developing musicality. This is why many early reading books use rhyme, rhythm and repetition. They are fun and they keep the child interested.

Reading and spelling.

Reading books with poems, rhymes and songs show the child that these are written in lines and verses, not sentences and paragraphs. They look very different on the page, than stories or prose. Reading rhymes teaches children that the same sound can be written in a number of different ways; ‘bare', ‘hair’ and ‘there’ all rhyme, but the ‘air’ sound is different in each case. This is one of the basic rules of reading and spelling.

Action rhymes and songs.

Young children love action rhymes and songs. They are fun and they help develop vocabulary as the child links the actions with the words. Here are a few examples:

I'm a little teapot
The wheels on the bus
The hokey cokey
If you'd like to learn more, or remind yourself of those you learned long ago, buy or borrow books, tapes, videos and CD's from a library or bookshop.

Number rhymes and songs.

Number songs encourage and develop early number skills. Some, like “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive" help children learn to count. Others, such as “Five Currant Buns" or “Ten Green Bottles" help them learn to count backwards and understand simple subtraction. Some rhymes and songs even teach basic multiplication: “Cherries on a plate, cherries on a plate, 2,4,6,8, cherries on a plate. " Encourage your child to use their fingers to count as they sing or speak.

Rhyme and song activities.

Activities help children to learn new words or understand ideas better. There are many activities you could use with poems and songs.

Here are a few examples:

  • ask your child to underline or highlight words which rhyme, then list them in groups, for example:
    Jill down
    hill crown
  • speak or sing favourite rhymes and songs, but miss out some or all of the rhyming words. Your child will enjoy putting them in.
  • encourage your child to invent new lines to rhyme with you give them.
    for example:

    Hickory Dickory Dock
    The mouse has lost a sock.

    It doesn't matter if the lines are silly. This just adds to the fun.

  • Clap out the beat or rhythm. You can also stamp, nod your head or do all three.

    Go on, be a child again.

    Dorothy Massey is the author of Better English published by Studymates and the Ghost Twin Tales: Mini Mysteries and Kooky Spookies, a Pinestein Press publication. An expert in literacy for adults and children, she writes quality educational materials and children's fiction. To find out more about Dorothy and writing for children in the UK, visit Dorothy's blog:

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