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How Rhyming Predicts Future Reading Success

If you grew up reading the Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat, you probably remember having fun with rhyming. You may have thought it was a funny little book, but actually Dr. Seuss was right on track with helping you improve your reading skills.

When your child rhymes words, his brain develops the ability to do the following:

1. Break words down into smaller words.

In reading, the ability for break words down into smaller words makes it possible for him to tackle new words. This is called better phonemic awareness. Children who aren’t doing well in reading are often unable to do this.

2. 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 give them the opportunity to develop inflection in their voices. They can also hear the differences in the sounds, which furthers their reading development.

3. Learn word families such as den, ben, ten, men, and pen.

Word families are the basis of language. When children realize that similar sounds are found in words they have heard before, they build a library of sounds in their brain for language. If the letter e in the word ben sounds like eh, it may also sound like eh in the word tenfold.

4. Increases 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.

Research on the Benefits of Rhyming

Research on how rhyming ability predicts reading success started back in the 1980s. In 1987, a study of three-year-olds reported that the more nursery rhymes the children knew, the better their phonological knowledge was later on (Maclean, Bryant, and Bradley).

Another study conducted in 1994 in the United Kingdom found differences in children with good, average, and poor reading ability based on rhyming awareness and speech rate (McDougall, Hulme, Ellis and Monk).

All this information tells us that there really is a purpose for silly little rhyming books and games. If we want children to be successful at reading, we have to give their brains what they need:  more rhymes.