The ability to recognize and produce rhyming words is an important phonological awareness
skill. Research indicates there is a correlation between phonological awareness and reading ability. Working on rhyming skills is usually part of most programs of reading instruction for that reason. What you can do to help develop your child’s rhyming skills at home:
- Read rhyming books to your child. If possible, try to have reading time at least once a day. As always, reading time should be a fun and enjoyable time for both of you, and it helps to build reading activity into part of a routine. Reading before bedtime is a good way to introduce the activity into your child’s day.
- Teach your child nursery rhymes. Nursery rhyme books are an excellent way to begin teaching your child this early phonological awareness skill.
- Young children love repetition. They enjoy reading the same books over and again. This repetition is important in children’s learning process, and should be encouraged. So when your child reaches for the same books or asks you to “read it again” rest assured that hearing materials again and again is good for him.
- After you’ve read a rhyme several times, leave out the rhyming word and pause expectantly. Ask your child what word comes next. Wait for a few seconds for a response. If your child answers correctly, reinforce her by saying, “that’s right. See, _______ rhymes with ________.” If she doesn’t say the word, say it for her, and ask her to say it back to you. Say, “ see, ______ rhymes with _______.” Make this process playful and enjoyable. Eventually, your child will begin to anticipate the rhyming words and will fill them in.
- Once your child is able to predict rhyming words in her favorite rhyming books on a regular basis, begin playing rhyming games with her where you and she think of words that rhyme. For example, ask her to think of a word that rhymes with a word that you say. Start out with words she already knows from her rhyming books (without actually using the book during this activity). For example, if you are reading The Cat in the Hat, ask her for a word that rhymes with “cat.”
- After your child is able to identify and say rhyming words from her books without using the books, it is time to begin introducing new words for her to rhyme by making up new rhymes. Tell her you are going to say a word, and that you would like to think up words that rhyme or sound the same. Say the word “cat.” Your child will probably say “hat.” Then ask for another word that sounds like cat. Wait for a response. If your child offers a correct word, say “that’s right. ______ rhymes with cat and hat. If she does not respond or gives another word that doesn’t rhyme, give an example of a correct word, like “bat.” Again, keep it fun, and enjoyable. If your child has difficulty with this task, discontinue and work more on vocabulary building with sight word vocabulary flash cards. After your child’s vocabulary grows, you can come back to the rhyming activity.
- Read children’s books of poems together. After you’ve read a poem several times, repeat some of the activities above.
It is important to remember that rhyming is a developmental skill that will emerge over time. Be patient with your child as he learns this skill. If he has persistent difficulty with rhyming or other phonemic awareness skills, consider having his hearing screened. You can also make an appointment with your child’s teacher to share your concerns and ask if the teacher has also noted similar problems in school. The teacher can help you determine if it is a good idea to continue with rhyming activities or if your reading time would be better spent building a different skill. Your teacher may also observe your child and determine if he needs extra help in this area.