Why Rhyming Verse Is Important in Teaching Children to Read

Why Rhyming Verse (Poetry) Is Important in Teaching Children to Read 

A groundbreaking leader in early childhood education is Nina Davis, an Australian educator, who advocates the aggressive use of rhyming verse in teaching young children to read. 

Her website is:   Nina’s Arena—Teaching and Learning in the Australian Primary Classroom, found at:  http://ninadavis.me/2009/01/22/young-children-are-born-poets-why-poetry-rhyme-and-chant-is-essential-for-all-children-but-crucial-for-the-struggling-reader/ 

She actively espouses use of rhymed verse, saying:  “Poetry engages young children, particularly when they can join in. Poems, rhymes, raps, finger plays and chants are important in all classrooms, but crucial to young children learning to read. Rhymes allow students to make predictions. I find that the children, who have difficulty predicting a text, have a ‘tougher’ journey learning to read. For this group of children poetry, chants and rhyme are essential.” She believes, “The resurrection of poetry, rhymes and chants in classrooms supports the important role they have in developing the language skills of young children.”  

This is why the author, Dr. Smith, has presented his Tale of Piggy Packfat in rhymed and metered verse, not unlike another much more famous author of children’s books highly favored by Ms. Davis, Dr. Seuss, about whom she says, “One of my favourite authors for young children is Dr. Seuss. I read these books to the children until they can recite the stories off by heart. The children love these books and take them home to read e.g. Green Eggs and Ham. The language is phonetic, contains simple sight words and they can remember the rhyme. Have as many in your room as you can, and read them ‘to death’.” 

Excellent advice, Ms. Davis, with which we heartily concur. 

Another wonderful blog about why children love rhymes and why they are important can be found at:  http://timbuktu.me/blog/why-do-children-love-poems/.  Blogger Timbuktu stresses four (4) reasons why rhymes are important in educating children:

  • Language development
  • Physical development
  • Cognitive development, and
  • Social/emotional development

Be sure to check his fine article as well.



Why Learning to Read Early is Crucial for Young Children

Working with the Kellogg Institute, the Department of Education has come up with some quite interesting findings about the importance of teaching children about reading as early as possible:

Parents who are with children many hours per day
have that much more instruction time to utilize.

Research shows that the more parents talk to their child
and read to their child the better the child does in school.


The report finds that, whenever an adult reads to a child, at least four (4) important things happen:

A Pleasurable Connection Is Established – children love to snuggle up with a loving adult, causing them to learn to connect reading with love. This connection is made with teachers, too, but they are not as important as family for making this connection.

This Creates a Double Learning Experience – both parent and child are learning from the book that they are reading.

Language Skills Are Being Built – While reading, adults pour sounds and syllables called words into the child’s ears and the child relates and identifies.

Books Build Background Knowledge – children learn so much from books—about colors, numbers, geography, about trucks and building and bakeries and dinosaurs and bugs and space. They learn about almost anything!

The study also encourages parents to ask, “How is my child’s reading going to get better if I am the one doing the reading?”

The answers are impressive.

Reading and talking about books with children builds:

Vocabulary: The more words children know when they start to learn to read, the easier it is for them to connect letters and sounds to words that they know.

  • Grammar
  • Background knowledge
  • Knowledge about books and print
  • Children learn the direction of reading (left to right), the difference between words and pictures, about letters, words, punctuation, and spaces between words, about the front, middle, and back of a book, about titles and authors
  • Differences between the language in books and everyday conversation
  • Story structures, learning how to “hold” a story in their mind, and learning how to ask and answer questions from the text
  • They learn to love reading and stories

The national Public Library Association agrees. It says Early Literacy Begins with You. You should help your child get ready to read with simple activities every day.

Reading is essential to school success! Learning to read begins before children start school. From the time they are infants, children learn language and other important skills that will help them learn to read. Developing early literacy skills makes it easier for children to read once they begin school.

Parents should help their children get ready to read. It’s never too early or too late to help your child develop language and other early literacy skills. Here are five of the best ways for children to get ready to read.

Talking: Talking with children helps them learn oral language, one of the most critical early literacy skills. The experience of self-expression also stimulates brain development, which underlies all learning.

  • Make sure your child has lots of opportunities to talk with you, not just listen to you talk.
  • Stretch your child’s vocabulary. Repeat what your child says and use new words. “You want a banana? That’s a healthy choice.“
  • Stress Awareness of sensitivity to the sounds in words. This helps prepare children to decode print (written language).

Singing (which also includes rhyming): increases children’s awareness of sensitivity to the sounds in words. This helps prepare children to decode print (written language). To help implement this:

  • Sing the Alphabet Song to help your child learn about letters
  • Clap along to the rhythms in songs so children hear the syllables in words.

Reading: Reading together, or shared reading, remains the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers. To implement this:

  • Read every day. Use books to help teach new words. Books can teach less common words, words that children may not hear in every day conversation. While reading to your child, talk about what these words mean.

Writing: Writing and reading go together. Writing helps children learn that letters and words stand for sounds and that print has meaning.

  • Writing begins with scribbles and other marks. Encourage this by providing many opportunities to draw and write.
  • Talk with your children about what they draw, and write captions or stories together. This helps make a connection between spoken and printed language.

Playing: Play is one of the primary ways young children learn about the world. General knowledge is an important literacy skill that will help children understand books and stories once they begin to read.

  • Give your child plenty of playtime. Some of the best kinds of play are unstructured, when children can use their imaginations and create stories about what they’re doing.
  • Encourage dramatic play. When children make up stories using puppets or stuffed animals, they develop important narrative skills. This helps children understand that stories and books have a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Children who enter kindergarten with pre-reading skills have an advantage. They can focus on learning to read instead of first learning essential pre-reading skills. Children who start kindergarten ready to read have greater success throughout their school years.

The role of parents/caregivers is critical
and essential in helping children to read.

You have been your child’s teacher from the day he or she was born. You know more about your child than anyone else. You are in the best position to help your child get ready to read because:

  • Young children have short attention spans. You can do activities for short bits of time throughout the day.
  • You know your children best and you can help them learn in ways and at times that are easiest for them.
  • Parents are tremendous role models – if your children see that you think reading is important and enjoy it, they will follow your lead.
  • Children learn best by doing – and they love doing things with YOU.
Public Library Association, Every Child Ready to Read

How and Why to Teach Nutritional Awareness to Children

“This morality fable preaches the importance of proper diet, as well as physical and moral fitness.”

Piggy is the epitome of an irresponsible glutton, spendthrift, and wastrel.  Her uncontrolled eating symbolizes her irresponsibility in dealing with life.  The moral message to children is to watch what they eat and not let themselves get out of shape like Piggy, who consumes vast quantities of butter, cakes, and other fat-laden foods to the point where her clothes no longer fit her and the only one attracted to her is the wolf who only cares about her as his next meal.

How and Why to Teach Nutritional Awareness to Children

teaching nutrition to children

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is a great resource for health and nutrition information.

America today suffers from “an epidemic of obesity.”  Nearly one in three children is severely overweight.  According to the Center for Disease Control:

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
  • In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.3 Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.

Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being.

healthy children playing

Immediate health effects:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Long-term health effects:

  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.6  One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.
  • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

See:  http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

A Review of Dr. Smith’s The Tale of Piggy Packfat

Woody Guthrie once said: “let me be known as the man who told you somethin’ you already know.” That jumped into my mind almost at once when I read Dr. Smith’s wonderfully whimsical morality fable in verse, The Tale of Piggy Packfat. It is a delightful little story that tells us things we’ve always known through the actions of persons we have already encountered, especially ones like Piggy Packfat herself. Dr. Smith enhances this by giving us a refresher course in folklore, reminding us of things we should already know, but about which we all could probably use a reminder.

illustration of dr. smith

Dr. Smith

This lesson is not pedantic; neither is the poem itself. We are reminded of the virtues of helping our fellows and the wickedness of unrestrained self-indulgence. The unsparing portrayal of the dreadful Piggy is tough enough for grown folks, yet not too harsh for kids. Our faith in decent concern for others is reaffirmed, as is our belief that, harsh as it is, Piggy’s comeuppance, when it comes, is righteous and proper.

The clever illustrations in this book are every bit as delicious as the text and most conducive to aiding the young reader’s comprehension. The sharp contrast between the other animals, presented as the proper souls they are, and the over-rouged Ms. Packfat in her supremely tacky red dress, are spot-on. Now, like the author, I’ll share with you something else you already know: I like this book! I’m certain you and your children will, too. It should be considered a “must read” for young readers ages four and older.

Zeke Johnson
Memphis, Tennessee

Zeke Johnson is a retired schoolteacher with the Memphis City Schools and an active musician and songwriter.

Welcome to the Tale of Piggy Packfat

This book is intended as a vocabulary-building tool for young readers.  Written in rhyming verse, it begins in simple words children can easily understand, but as it progresses adds bigger words that expand the readers’ language skills.  The author skillfully introduces the reader to new words such as “larder” for “pantry,” “swine” for “pig,” commercial terms “borrowing” and “repay,” “township” for the community, “omen” for “sign,” “distress” for “trouble,” and “carnivores” for wolves.  As the plot progresses, references are also made to other classics of children’s literature involving “good wolves,” such as in Kipling’s The Jungle Book and the ancient Roman myth of Romulus and Remus, which will hopefully direct the young readers to such other intellectually stimulating reads.

fb_coverThis morality tale in verse teaches children about the importance of thrift, cleanliness, honesty, and respect for one’s self, family members, neighbors, and others.

The book is set in a distant, magic land where the differences between animals and people are blurred, and animals can dwell as equals with humans.  It focuses on the Packfat Family, where Daddy goes to work each day, while Mother keeps house and attends to the children.  Families are supposed to work together for the common good.  But in this book selfish Piggy Packfat is only out for herself.  Thrift is encouraged and the family work together to save.  But their daughter Piggy only cares about herself.  She “borrows” from the family savings until there are none left, which causes the others to leave her in disgust.  She allows the once-handsome family cottage to go to ruin and annoys the neighbors with her wailings, until nobody has any sympathy for her. She stuffs herself with fattening foods and lets her body go to pot like she did her home. This makes her only attractive to the Wolf, who eventually comes to eat her.  Piggy Packfat sets a negative example of what children should not be, much like the little boy who cried “wolf.”

large_pigWhat sets this book apart from others is the impeccable verse and vivid, colorful illustrations which work together to stimulate the young readers’ imagination while telling an entertaining story.  Its moral message is quite clear:  work, save, plan, take care of yourself and your business, respect your loved ones and others, and live a rewarding life—or else you may open yourself up to folly, like Piggy does.