"Roses are red, violets are blue...." I'm pretty sure we all know that little poem. But somewhere along the line, it seems like many of our children have forgotten how to rhyme. It seems that, more often than not, the students who come to me for extra reading support do not know how to rhyme. So, why is this important? Understanding onset (the initial consonant or consonant blend of a word) and rime (the vowel and the consonants that follow it) is a critical skill in developing phonological awareness, one of the foundations of reading. Children do not learn to read words until they first learn to pull apart the individual sounds in a word. Pull them apart first to get the concept, then learn how to put them back together.
So, what has happened to rhyming? I have a theory that is, in no way, research-based; just based upon my own observations. It seems to me that perhaps we are such a "sophisticated" society these days, that we don't need to worry about things like reading Dr. Seuss to our children.
Hop on Pop is cliche; we've all read it a million times. But have our children? Books like that are perfect for early readers...or even pre-readers. Children love books that are predictable and repetitive. They can learn to "read" them, or at least parts of the books, by themselves. In doing so, they begin to understand our alphabetic system. Even more importantly, they learn to play with words by changing the beginning sounds. Change the /h/ in "hop" to /p/ and you have "pop". Thus we have the beginnings of onset and rime.
As the child eagerly fills in the words that you leave out when you are reading and come up with other rhyming words that could fit in that same spot, they learn how much fun they can have with reading. A love for reading will lead to a desire to read more, which will ultimately lead to fluent reading. In the words of Dr. Seuss, from I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”