As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives. The accent of the words creates a steady beat, or rhythm.
†Why do We Need Rhythm? Rhythm is fundamental to the human experience.
Look at the books on your child’s shelf. Chances are you have many rhyming books. Rhyming books are catchy, fun to read, and keep your child’s attention. You might not be aware, though, of other incredible benefits swimming below the surface of these innocent little ditty’s on a colorful page.
†What is Rhyme? We all know rhyme when we see it. It’s where the patterns of words contain similar sounds. Sam/Ham/Am for instance. (And if you have a child, you can
name that book in 10 seconds or less.)
†Why Do We Need Rhyme?
- It is easier to learn something when it rhymes. We remember rhymes. Rhyme is an effective mnemonic device and can “tag” information, not only making it easy to learn, but also easy to later recall. And rhyming is fun. It’s playful.
- Rhyme helps with reading. There is a correlation between phonological awareness and reading ability. Rhythm helps the child recognize patterns, a fundamental reading skill. It also helps with spelling as there is the ability to infer that two like-sounding words are often spelled similarly. Good rhymers make good readers.
- Rhyme is calming. Rhyming lines are predictable. There is a soothing quality to rhyme.
- Rhyme helps brain development. Young children’s brains need a blend of repetition and the occurrence of surprise. Rhyme has both.
- Rhythm, like rhyme, enhances learning. It helps improve our attention skills. Rhythm helps memory (Brower, 1993; Payne & Holzman, 1986; Patel, et al., 1998). Rhythm is predictable, structured, and organized–and our brain likes it!
- Rhythm is essential for the socialization of infants. It is integral to the coordination of motor activity and locomotion (Iverson & Thelen, 1999).
- We are hard-wired from birth for rhythm.† In 2009, researchers from Hungary and the Netherlands reported that, by measuring their brain waves when listening to rhythms, day-old infants are able to detect differences between them.
- Rhythm is a de-stresser.†The rhythmical activity of drumming reversed multiple components of the human stress response believed responsible in the development of common diseases (Bittman, Medical Science Monitor, 2005).
- Rhythm is a basic element in the construction of more complex human behaviors, such as music and language (Iverson & Thelen, 1999; Patel, et al., 1998).
- Rhythm is an element of music. “Music making offers extensive exercise for brain cells and their synapses (connections). It would be difficult to find another activity that engages so many of the brain’s systems.”(Weinberger, N., 1998)
- Our motor systems naturally entrain, or match, to a rhythmic beat. When a musical input enters our central nervous system, some of it heads straight to motor nerves in our spinal cord. This allows our muscles to move to the rhythm without our having to think about it or “try”. It’s how we dance to music, tap our foot to a rhythm, and walk in time to a beat. Many young children “rock” to the beat or show it physically in some way before the age of one.
Bring Rhythm Alive Through the Books on Your Shelf Now that you know the massive benefits that rhyme and rhythm provide, youíll want to run to your bookshelf and find the books that can easily promote this. The Chicka Chicka books are great for bringing out the benefits of rhythm. In Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, children learn the alphabet and in Chicka Chicka 1 2 3, they learn numbers (and, of course, a LOT more as you just learned!) The opening page gives a good example of rhyme and rhythm: A told B, And B told C, I’ll meet you at the top Of the coconut tree. Here are some suggestions on how to get the most out of a rhyming book like this:
- Read the book often and with engagement. Young children love repetition. Engage them with the large cutout shapes and colors on the page. If they are old enough, encourage them to say some of the words, especially at the end of lines where words rhyme. Remember, memorable!
- Tap the rhythm as you read. On your leg, on their back, on the book. Or clap the rhythm. It might be helpful for you to see the beat visually. Songs and rhymes can be divided into “measures”. Measures help group beats into patterns. †Each measure has a specific number of beats ó most commonly, four beats. Just think “1, 2, 3, 4,” and then begin again with “1” in each subsequent measure.
- Bring out an “instrument.” This could be an instrument you’ve made or purchased. It could be a found object at home. A pan and a wooden spoon make a great drum. Beat out the underlying pulse†or heart beat of each phrase as you read. (Or by now, you may know the whole book by heart!) Encourage your child to play with you and no worries if they are not ‘on’ the beat. Plenty of time for that as they grow.
- Most of all, HAVE FUN with rhythm!
Share With Us What books do you have at home that lend
themselves to rhythmical activity? Please share your rhythmic
stories and ideas here with others.
Annie Keeling, MFA, founder of the Parenting Groove blog, is an educator, writer, music teacher, and parent. She teaches elementary children’s group music education classes as well as parent/child early education Music Together classes. The families involved have been a springboard for material involving parenting, music, and education (especially ideas around building respectful behavior of all family members.) Raised by a family therapist who created the 3R’s Learning Center for Behavior Education, Annie incorporates many of his teachings in her writing. She has a BS in Dance Therapy and Dance Education from UW-Madison, a Masters in Dance from UCLA, and a Masters in Creative Writing from Goddard College.