The reason for rhyme

PARENTS' CORNER

May 16, 1999

Editor's note: In her biweekly column, Jerdine Nolen today explores nursery rhymes and their place in the reading puzzle.

Nursery rhymes were not intentionally written for children. But, they have been around for-ever. And, the appeal of nursery rhymes, Mother Goose, finger plays, alphabet verses, counting-out rhymes all lie in the melody, rhythm and fun of the words. It doesn't matter that there may be no sense to the story being told. "Curds and whey"? A "tuffet"? Questions about these things come up when children are much older. As well as some discussions about bad character traits in some of the rhymes, e.g., Tom the Piper's Son was a pig thief! But, for the young reader there is so much reason to rhyme and to share these time-tested treasures of musical language.

Their Value

* Stories are short enough for growing attention spans.

* Humor, fun, enjoyment and sheer excitement.

* Introduces young ones to the musical quality of language. "Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle ..."

* Introduces young readers to the idea of the narrative or story.

* Begins early love of books and stories.

* Motor activity (clapping, walking, hopping, etc.) can be easily incorporated.

* Develops good listening skills.

* Creates connections with others.

* Repetition helps create awareness of sounds (letters or words).

* Promotes social skills.

* Clarifies good and bad behaviors.

* Acquaints the young reader with sequencing of sounds, a skill that is crucial to reading and spelling.

* Introduces the child to word patterns, such as wall-fall and kittens-mittens.

A resident of Ellicott City, Jerdine Nolen is the award-winning children's author of "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm" and "Raising Dragons." She is a former teacher and administrator in elementary education, and has personally field-tested her suggestions on her son and daughter.

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