Kindergarten registration is right around the corner. I always get calls from parents this time of year requesting screenings to see if their child is ready for kindergarten and what they can do to better prepare their children for kindergarten. Reading to your children and teaching them to rhyme can be key factors in making a successful transition to kindergarten.
“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.” [Fox, M. (2001). Reading Magic. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.]
Nursery rhymes serve to train a child’s ear in the foundations of phonemic awareness; the very skills necessary for reading acquisition. Not only does it teach phonemic awareness, it enables a child to develop vocabulary, syntax, voice, intonation and prosody. Nursery rhymes are often paired with music. The melodic influence serves to enhance the child’s memory for easy recall. The repetition of the rhyme improves oral motor sequencing ability; necessary for appropriate speech production.
My colleagues and I recently attended the Illinois Speech-Language Hearing Association’s annual convention. The three day conference hosted experts from around the country. The common thread among all of these experts focused on the importance of the first five years of language exposure and language acquisition on academic success. Children learn more in their first eight years of life than they do throughout the rest of their lives. Our technology while providing older students with excellent academic resources may be hindering our youngest students. Research shows us that children entering school in the 50’s had vocabularies of over 10,000 words. Today most kindergarten children are entering school with less than 2500 words. I found those statistics alarming.
Academic success is dependent upon a solid language base. I urge parents to go back to the basics with their preschool children. Talk and read with your children. Practice nursery rhymes, finger plays and singing with your little ones. Teach them to rhyme, sequence a story and have fun listening to language. Children are amazing little people, have fun with them!