Life is about rhythm. We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that’s hat we are. — Mickey Hart
Preborn infants hear the rhythm of their mother’s heartbeat. Human infants are sensitive to speech rhythm early in their development. Newborn infants react to the rhythm of adult speech. Three- to 4-month-old babies move limbs and smile in response to rhythmical dance music. Parents enjoy watching toddlers moving and smiling during music listening.
Rhythmic sounds are fundamental for communication and social interaction through a child’s development. Rhythm is essential to the understanding of speech. Spoken language is governed by rhythm. Many languages have a regular rhythm, but English is a mixture of stressed and unstressed syllables giving it rhythm.
Children learning through rhythm, often by a method of repetition, is key to all languages. Reciting nursery nursery rhymes, like Jack and Jill, Little Bo Peep, and the Three Little Kittens, for example, give a foundation for language learning, reading, and listening comprehension.
Rhymes are a literary device in which identical or similar concluding syllables in different words are repeated. Rhymes are fun when used in everyday speech. They are used to appeal to a sense of rhythm in language and to create memorable expressions. Such sayings as “See you later, alligator!” or “Shop ‘til you drop” are heard often. You might have a “fender bender” or “double trouble.” You might be lucky enough to have a “study buddy” or a “true blue” friend.
Parents can train their children’s ears to accent and rhythm. Clapping, singing, drawing, and dancing help children to find their natural rhythm. Rhythm is innate in every human being. Adults just need to be creative in helping children find theirs. Using different voices and inflection may delight your children and get them to see you using rhythm to get and keep their attention.
Rhythm is using a sound pattern in an artistic way. It is independent of the way words look or are spelled. Day, prey, weigh, and bouquet might be used in composing a poem because they sound alike. Rhythm in writing acts as the “beat” does in music. Rhythm captivates an audience and readers alike by giving musical effect to speech.
Once children “feel” the rhythm of language, they can begin to read and write their own poetry. They can be taught to use a rhyming scheme, an ordered pattern of rhymes at the ends of lines, using rhyming words in the ends of the first and third lines of a poem or rhyming words in the second and fourth lines of a poem.
Rhymed poems have endured for untold centuries of human civilization. Children can use a website such as rhymer.com or even purchase a rhyming dictionary to help them explore the rhythm and rhyme of words.
I was 15 when I first became deeply touched by the rhythm and structure of words. — Leonard Cohen
Enjoy the rhythm and rhyme of language with your children to help them learn.
Southern Arizona resident Bette Mroz is a former teacher, reading specialist and principal. As a mother and grandmother, she continues to help her family learn. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org