Did you know that SINGING helps children develop the skills they need to read? No, REALLY. So even if you don’t think you can carry a tune in a basket, you should SING with your kids often – young children are not at all judgemental about your singing ability (it’s when they get to be teenagers that they get all judge-y). When you and your child sing, children start to hear words broken up into their smaller parts, as often each syllable is a separate note. This skill helps children with rhyming and with sounding out words later on when they learn to read on their own. So it’s in your child’s best interest to break out in a chorus of “Wheels on the Bus” when driving to the park.
BUT, if you REALLY can’t bring yourself to sing (and seriously, why not? GET OVER IT ALREADY), there are other ways to develop this skill. Reciting rhymes, playing with language, making up your own silly rhymes – all of these things help too. So does simply reading aloud – because when we read aloud we tend to sloooowwww dooowwwnnn our speech, enabling kids to hear every part of a word. There’s also a whole genre of books that can be a fun way to develop these phonological skills – books that have a beat. They can be chanted or read aloud while clapping or tapping out a beat (building gross motor skills), and kids can help and chant along! And when kids have fun with books, and are engaged, they learn more and are more motivated to learn to read. WIN.
Some of my favorite books to chant:
- There Was an Old Monster by Rebecca, Adrian and Ed Emberley. I like to tap out a beat while I read this new take on the familiar “There was an Old Lady” rhyme. Monster swallows all kinds of creatures, including ants, which make him dance in his pants: “scritchy scratch scritch, scritchy scratch.” I read it in a slower, more steady beat, but you can listen to Adrian Emberley chant the book here.
- Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig. I mean, come on, it’s got beat right in the title! “Chicks can’t sleep, chicks can’t sleep, chicks can’t sleep ’cause they’ve got that beat!”
- Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett. A little girl and her stuffed monkey describe all the animals they’ve seen (and if you look closely at the illustrations, you can see that they’re imitating them too!). “Monkey and me, monkey and me, monkey and me, we went to see, we went to see some….ELEPHANTS!”
- Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre. “Oh boy, bok choy! Brussels sprout! Broccoli! Cauliflower! Shout it out!” Celebrate your love of delicious veggies and learn about some new ones, too! There’s a fruit version too: Go, Go, Grapes!: A Fruit Chant.
- Tanka Tanka Skunk! by Steve Webb. This book is a great way to start clapping out the syllables in a word as the text consists mostly of the names of animals. And the book demonstrates by showing the syllables in the word “kangaroo” on separate drums. A nice visual representation!
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt! by Michael Rosen. Most preschoolers know this chant, as it’s a staple in classrooms everywhere. “We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We’re not scared!”
Have you ever chanted a book? Do you have any favorites? Please share!