Niamh Clune

Environment, poetry, comment, children's books,

Rhyme And Phonics: Important in Early Literacy?

As a child, I remember learning nursery rhymes sung to me by my mother.

Find My Name In The Alphabet TrainNot only did her soft, lilting Galway accent transfix me, the rhythm of hardly-understood-words elicited an autogenic body response. I wanted to dance, keep time, join in.

 How many of us who learned nursery rhymes in childhood knew what we were singing about? The importance of nursery rhyme isn’t about meaning, it’s about sound and rhythm.

 Research into early literacy skills shows the importance of rhythm and rhyme. Developing literacy skills begin with listening and verbalising rather than reading and writing. That comes later.  If children do not have a good grasp of phonics and are unable to discriminate sounds and rhyming patterns in an audible way, it will prove much more difficult for them to recognise words by sight.

 Stories written in rhyme and rhythm help our children develop auditory discrimination, listening skills, a rich and broad vocabulary, a love of words for the sake of themselves, concentration skills, phonemic awareness, a love of books (as, hearing your voice, they come to associate reading with love and affection) poetry skills (which stimulate later imaginative, descriptive skills – so great for future composition).

Personally, I favour slightly wacky, way-out rhyme that doesn’t necessarily have to make sense. What about this from Spike Milligan? -My daughter’s favourite nonsense poem as a child (she still loves it and we taught it to my granddaughter).

 On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
And the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

 And many of us loved Dr Seuss:

I meant what I said
And I said what I meant….
An elephant’s faithful
One hundred per cent!

And it should be,
It should be, it SHOULD be
Like that!
Because Horton was faithful!
He sat and he sat!

“My goodness! My gracious!”
They shouted. “MY WORD!
It’s something brand new!

And what about Lewis Caroll’s Jabberwocky? – Probably inspired Roald Dahl

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!” …

Children love the madness and surprise of rhyme for its sound and out-of-the-box imaginative possibility. Anything goes. It’s fun and challenging! We reach them on their own level of communication. We enter into their world. Small children don’t HAVE to understand the vocabulary. But it goes in subliminally. Remember the Frozen phenomenon when little girls of 3 were singing about “frozen fractals?” They certainly didn’t understand what they were singing about but could recite every word of that song by heart. It was the sound and the rhythm that counted, and we shouldn’t underestimate what our children are capable of remembering and reciting!

This is why I have written a new personalised children’s book in rhyme.  You will find my personalised children’s books’ site HERE Dr Niamh Children’s Books

Beware: unlike many personalised, bandwagon books, this has plenty of content and is a serious teaching book that’s fun, a keepsake that harks back to the days of classic rhyme! Not only is this personalised alphabet book written in rhyme, the rhyme itself is written in phonics so that each letter of the alphabet develops a personality of its own. For example:

Find My Name In The Alphabet Train

Peculiar pig
Through the paddock did pop. P p p
Picked up a pumpkin
Pride of the crop. P p p

I have used as many verbs, adjectives and adverbs that begin with P or end with P, as each carefully chosen word places different emphases on the phonic, as well as including the repeated phonic sound of P itself.

Find My Name In The Alphabet Train is an adventure into the alphabet with favourite characters saying each alphabet sound. Your little one will also discover which special letters (and sounds) are found in his/her own name.

For more details go to Find My Name In The Alphabet Train


About Dr Niamh Children's Books

I spent many an early morning dancing to the tunes of the little people. Very soon, they began to trust me, (Fairies seldom trust humans, as humans do very strange things to fairies and to fairyland), but I could dance a fine jig, pirouette often, sing a long song and recite a poem, all of which is of very great interest to fairies. They taught me some of their ancient secrets about bees and butterflies, worms and magic bears who know such an awful lot about everything. They also taught me secrets about science and the sky, and how to grow up into someone who is wise (wise enough to still believe in fairies). I like to share some of those mysteries with boys and girls (and grown-ups who still have magic in them) who are inquisitive but can also keep a secret. Sssssssssh! Promise you won’t tell anyone… Are you ready? Now listen well, to the stories I will tell…

4 comments on “Rhyme And Phonics: Important in Early Literacy?

  1. Patricia Tilton
    October 7, 2017

    Lovely post about teaching kids rhyme and rhythm very early. I know as a child I’d use rhythm as a tool to remember things. I like the examples you share. I hope your books do well — perfect for upcoming holiday gifts.


  2. Darlene
    October 7, 2017

    Bravo! This is an amazing book and perfect teaching tool. I so agree with the importance of rhyming books. Some of my earliest memories are of mom and dad reading nursery rhymes to me and later reading them to my younger brothers. I enjoyed seeing the delight on my children’s faces as I read to them, especially Doctor Suess! I know this book will be a huge hit. Love the illustrations as well.


    • ontheplumtree
      October 7, 2017

      Thank you, Darlene. I don’t hold back with vocabulary or tongue-twisting rhyme of if this book is for younger children.


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