Rhythm and Rhyme as Elements of Pre-Reading

June 12, 2018

Contributed by Julie Strahan, MA, elementary school music teacher


**This is the second post in a series on essential building blocks of reading**


The Basics

Children of all cultures and languages spontaneously participate in rhythm activities including dancing, jumping rope, and bouncing balls. Reading experts think these movements are essential for development and are strongly associated with literacy.


Children who are able to line up their movements with external sounds and movements show better pre-reading skills than students who can’t match beat patterns. Rap, games, songs, and rhyming books (especially those with even phrases and rhyme pairs) can help build a child’s rhythm awareness.



Breaking it Down

In music education, the beat is the underlying pulse of a song or poem. Rhythm is the way the words or instruments lay on top of the beat. Often, these words are used interchangeably, but they are indeed different. Rhyme is achieved by using phrases of equal length that end with the same phonemes, or word parts. For example, /at/ might come at the end of the second and fourth line of text.



Like many of the books from Cantata Learning, the Classic Fables in Rhythm and Rhyme series helps young children experience rhyme while singing and reading along. The familiar stories from Aesop, which have a teaching “moral” to the story, include new songs and rhyming to increase understanding, engagement, and retention of the song.


The rhythm can be found in the song itself, a catchy tune that makes placement of the words clear. This song, like rap or other poetry, helps children place the word parts into the song in a rhythmic way. I call this using the words in a “pointy” way.


In order to have the word parts fall into the right rhythm, I say they have edges that are pointy and you need to get those words parts out—the words are “sharp” like glass. This description often helps students better understand very specific articulation of words—a key component of rap or spoken word poetry!


Songs, rhymes, a steady beat, and intentional placement of words all help build necessary pre-reading skills for early readers and provide support to emerging and advanced reading.


The moral of the story? Rhythm and rhyme help grow readers!


About the author: Julie Strahan is a mother to 3 young adult children. She and her husband, Frank, live in Minneapolis, MN with their yellow lab, Scout. She now teaches K-5 music in a public school.