Importance of Nursery Rhymes in Early Reading Skills and Language Development
Do you remember the sense of pride on your parent’s face, when you recited a poem (or a nursery rhyme) in front of family and friends? Memories of this nature get imprinted on our minds and come rushing back when our children today recite rhymes like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Jhonny Jhonny Yes Papa” or “Chanda Mama Dur Ke” and “Lala Lala Lori, Dudh Me Katori”. We feel the same sense of pride that our parents once felt.
Learning and reciting the rhymes served as confidence boosters to our fragile egos. At the same time, they were a handy tool for the parents who were not comfortable with storytelling or singing lullabies. Sadly, today nursery rhymes are disappearing from the lives of our young children and have been replaced by electronic gadgets, increased tendency of parents to jump right into science and maths based learning activities etc. While some of these are no doubt important, the importance of rhymes for children cannot be and should not be underestimated. Nursery rhymes are important for pre-primary and kindergarten children.
Here are some key Research backed facts to support our arguments
“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that children who know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are four years old are usually among the best readers and spellers in their class by the time they are Eight (Standard III)” 
“Phonological awareness is an important precursor in learning to read. This awareness of phonemes fosters a child’s ability to hear and blend sounds, encode and decode words, and to spell phonetically.” 
“Rhyming skills make it easier for children to learn about sequences of letters and especially about sequences shared by words which also rhyme. It also enhances phonological sensitivity (rhyme and phoneme detection) in general, which in turn enhances reading. There is a powerful and lasting connection between the children’s early knowledge of nursery rhymes and aspects of their linguistic development later on.” 
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It is evident that rhymes have long-term and positive implications for childhood developmental milestones. Let us now try and understand the basics of rhymes.
What is a Rhyme?
Wikipedia defines rhymes as “A repetition of similar sounds (or the same sound) in two or more words, most often in the final syllables of lines in poems and songs. The word rhyme is also a pars pro toto (“a part taken for the whole”) that means a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or another brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes” 
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Other definitions: “A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounding words, occurring at the end of lines in poems or songs. A rhyme is a tool utilizing repeating patterns that bring rhythm or musicality to poems.” 
Why Nursery Rhymes are important for pre-primary and kindergarten children:
- Rhymes contain sophisticated literary devices which empower children to understand more about tone, volume as well as patterns of the language. Imagine how your voice sounds when you ask a question or when you describe an incident to your friends – children need to learn these language variations.
- Nursery rhymes expand your child’s imagination. It allows you to take your child into a world of fantasy and play and easily develop your child’s visualization skills.
- Although short, nursery rhymes follow a clear sequence of events, often tell a story and contain a beginning, middle and end. Knowing about the sequence of events will be a skill your child needs to be able to follow, read and understand any story.
- Rhymes also greatly improves a child’s vocabulary. Children hear and use words that they would never come across in day-to-day communication.
- Rhymes also help you to introduce the abstract concepts to your child, early. For example, teaching “Twinkle twinkle little star” to my kid, allowed me to introduce concepts like stars, moon etc.
- Rhymes preserve a culture that spans across generations, providing something in common among parents, grandparents and kids—and also among people who do not know each other. Also, reading nursery rhymes to kids is, in part, “to participate in a long tradition- it’s a shared ritual” 
- Singing nursery rhymes allows all kids—even shy ones—to feel confident about singing, dancing and performing because they are so easy to grasp and fun. They really see the connection between movement, rhythm and words. 
- They are good for the brain. Not only does the repetition of rhymes and stories teach children how language works, it also builds memory capabilities that can be applied to all sorts of activities. 
- Most important is that they are fun to say as children just love the way rhymes sound. 
How to make learning Rhymes a Fun activity for your child:
Use facial expressions, actions and vary your voice tone to capture your child’s interest. Once they become more acquainted, encourage them to join in and say parts of the rhyme themselves (it will take some time before your child can recite the complete rhyme independently). Remember that rhymes can be enjoyed anyplace, anytime, anywhere! Share them at bath time, while getting them ready for bed, whilst making tea or in the car (also remember they can be fantastic tantrum diffusers as often children cannot resist joining in!).
More Interesting Tips:
- Skip the rhyming words: encourage your child to finish the line.
- Try changing words to make your own personalized rhymes using your child’s name, for example, “Tanvi Tanvi, Yes Papa; Eating Sugar No Papa”
- Try devising your own actions for teaching rhymes. Encourage your child to suggest suitable ones which they’ll be more likely to remember.
- Clap along and establish a steady beat while singing the rhymes
- Say the wrong words and let your children correct you!
- Draw pictures of your favourite scenes or characters in the rhyme.
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Conclusion and Key Take Aways:
Rhymes play a crucial role in literacy preparation of your child by enhancing the phonological awareness. Many educators believe that before children begin reading instruction, they need to become explicitly aware that spoken words are composed of sounds. Children, therefore, must develop the ability to consciously and analytically hear, identify, and manipulate those sounds.
- Speaking, singing, and reading aloud stimulate a child’s understanding and use of spoken and written language.
- Language and literacy development is facilitated when children have many opportunities to use language in interactions with adults; to listen and respond to rhymes, chants and stories; and to experiment with the sounds of language.
- Rhymes are a socially engaging, playful and developmentally appropriate way for young children to hear, identify, manipulate, and experiment with the sounds of language.
- Integrating Rhymes, jingles and chants, and other traditional literature contributes to a linguistically rich environment in which young children are exposed to the rich vocabulary, syntactic complexity, and decontextualized language.
- Combining tactile and kinesthetic activities in which language is intentionally explored, manipulated, and experimented within the context of nursery rhymes and literature enhances children’s phonological awareness and phonemic skill development.
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