Why is Rhyme Important in Children’s Fiction?

The first time we are introduced to rhyming is often through the nursery rhyme. From Baa-Baa-Black-Sheep to Humpty Dumpty, these quirky songs may seem like meaningless fun.

However, experts claim they actually provide a creative and playful learning opportunity and can be important for early development in literacy. To begin understanding phonics and to develop skills in listening and verbalising, nursery rhymes can help young children make sense of the complex sounds around them. Rhyming creates rhythm and helps patterns emerge within language. As explained in Mem Fox’s Reading Magic, ‘experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are four years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are eight.’

Rhyming within children’s fiction is the next step up from the nursery rhyme and continues to be essential for a child’s literacy development. Reading or listening to a story in rhythm and rhyme can help children learn a broad range of vocabulary, alongside concentration skills and auditory discrimination. As young readers become familiar with rhymes, they can also start to anticipate the next rhyming word, which not only teaches them how to comprehend common sounds and letters, but also makes for a more rewarding, beneficial and joyful experience of reading. Sometimes the task of learning to read can seem daunting to a young child, but if the rhymes are there to support them and offer fun clues to match the pictures, it can become a much less pressured experience. Increasing the enjoyment of reading, as rhyming fiction does so well, thus encourages a life-long love of books in youngsters (which is ultimately what all bookish parents hope for).

Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson – a comical, rhyming children’s book by Beachy Books

If nursery rhymes are the first thing to spring to mind when you think of rhyming for kids, the second is likely to be Dr. Seuss, with his hugely influential rhythmic fiction. Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and so many more, paved the way for rhyming fiction filled with nonsense and silliness. The ‘Seussian’ world is one of fantastical animals and made-up words (the Lorax and Thneeds made of Truffula trees, for example). According to scholars of the author, his creativity stemmed from his own difficult childhood, which allowed him to understand the style of words and stories that would be most compelling for children. While made-up words may run the danger of confusing young readers, they can actually help raise an awareness of the sounds that certain letters make together, continuing to help with developing literacy skills. Beachy Books’ own Thingamanose takes inspiration from the fun rhythm, invented words and nonsensical rhymes coined by Dr. Seuss, proving this style of children’s fiction is equally as engaging now as it was 60 years ago. 

Rhyming makes for a more enjoyable reading experience, while whimsical plot and humorous language is often what sparks a real love of reading in children. Author and illustrator, Huw Aaron, discusses his personal passion for nonsense rhyming, stating ‘before Meaning or Plot or Character come along, funny sounds and jangling rhythms and bouncing rhyme are a young child’s introduction to the world of Story, and simple, silly pictures their doorway to Art’. Fiction by Dr. Seuss, Spike Milligan and Beachy Book’s author Lynne Hudson, allows young readers to have fun and escape the realities of the world around them with rhyming children’s book, Thingamanose. Perhaps most importantly, this style of writing can help to expand a child’s imagination. For so many adult readers, literature is pure escapism. Silly rhymes and nonsense stories are the best way to ensure that children’s fiction works in the same way for those just getting started on their own reading journey.

Copyright © 2020 Amy Butler

Amy Butler is an avid-reader, book blogger and Marketing and PR professional based in the New Forest. Her favourite book is Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and she is at her happiest with a cup of fresh coffee and a new Historical Fiction novel. Amy is currently helping out at Beachy Books to gain experience in the publishing industry.