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Rhyme, rhythm and reading.

Stories with rhyme and rhythm make the story more playful and memorable, here's a reading list to get you grooving and dropping rhymes.

Apr 1, 2021

Words: Andrea Kinsmith
Images: Gippslandia

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Reading a picture book that rhymes well is a joy, but reading a picture book with good rhythm and rhyme is just magical!

A well-written story engages the reader through its subject matter and illustrations. A story with rhyme and rhythm, however, engages readers (or listeners) with the dynamics of language and sounds of the story, often making the story more playful and even more memorable.

When children are young their literacy skills begin with listening and verbalising rather than reading and writing, so playing with the sound and beat of language not only makes picture books and language fun, but are the first steps towards understanding and utilising language.

“Well-chosen stories with rhyme and rhythm encourage children to engage more deeply."

Well-chosen stories with rhyme and rhythm encourage children to engage more deeply. Motivating them to identify and even anticipate specific sounds and sound patterns, puts them on the path to hearing and understanding phonics when they are older. This almost musical experience of language encourages the use of tone and expression, making stories vibrantly come to life and also more fun to read.

Here are some examples of picture books that use rhyme and rhythm well.

Olga the Brolga by Rod Clement

This is a fun story about a young brolga that is in the mood to dance. She doesn’t want to dance alone, but none of her friends feel like joining her. The pattern of the rhyme creates the rhythm and tone of the story. This adds to the joy of the story when reading but also better connects us to the feelings of the main character.
The rhythm of some stories may be a little harder to identify. But if you can listen out for them, they make the story just that little bit more magical and memorable for everyone.

Time for Bed by Mem Fox

This sweet little story about animals going to sleep utilises a very simple rhyme and rhythm connection. The first line has repeated words that create the tempo and also form a rhyming link with the second line.
For example:
“It’s time for bed, little mouse, little mouse,
Darkness is falling all over the house.”

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Magic Beach by Alison Lester

This fantastic story of children spending a day at the beach, playing and using their imagination. The beautiful, rhythmic writing sets a suitable tone and doesn’t sound forced.

The rhythm in this story is established with a repeated phrase and then verse that begins:

“At our beach,
at our magic beach…”

The timing reminds us of the sound of waves gently lapping the beach.

The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, The Highway Rat, A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson

Reading The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child back to back is a lot of fun, and the lessons on greed from the other two titles are reason alone to read these books. But it’s the rhythm in the rhyme that makes these stories so memorable. These books conjure a similar timing to many other nursery rhymes — they are almost musical. In The Highway Rat and A Squash and a Squeeze, there is even something like a song’s chorus with a repeated phrase at the end of each scene.

Tanka Tanka Skunk! by Steve Webb

This book is brilliant and loads of fun to read. It clearly defines the rhythm of the text by introducing us to Tanka the elephant and Skunk (a skunk) who play drums. It is easy to hear the drumbeat behind the names of each of the animals as it defines their syllables clearly.

The Little Yellow Digger by Betty & Alan Gilderdale

by Sally Sutton

Apart from being transport themed and great stories, both these books exhibit a short beat when reading. They also engage listeners with sound effects and repeated words.

Monster Trucks by Mark Todd

Rattletrap Car
by Phyllis Root

In these two transport-themed stories the rhythm is found in the repeated phrasing. Monster Trucks, which is slightly more non-fiction in style, uses rhyme throughout the book; although Rattletrap Car doesn’t always use rhyme, it does have a rhythm throughout the story and even a kind of chorus.

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