You are snuggled with your little one in their bed, it’s bedtime. What is the best book to read? Rhyming books with their repetition and cadence are soothing for kids. But, even more than that, rhyming books are good for the brain. As you read that bedtime story your child’s brain begins to map syllables and the sound that make up words. This is called Phonological awareness and is a skill necessary for reading later one.
Reading and the Brain
- Reading skills develop over a long period of time. Researchers have tracked changes in the left cortical areas of the brain from the age of 6 to 22.
- Activity in the left cortical area of the brain is related to children’s phonological awareness – the ability to understand that speech is made up of units of sounds (phonemes) that represent written symbols (letters).
- With development, the brain becomes more interconnected, which allows children to map printed words to sound. Phonological awareness is a necessary skill for the ability to read words and young preschoolers performance on simple phonological tasks is a reliable predictor of early reading achievement.
- Studies that map areas of activity in the brain show that older children (7-8 year olds) use the meaning of a word to recognize print, whereas, younger children may use ‘sounding it out’ to recognize print (phonological awareness).
So, what does all this mean? For preschoolers, the area of the brain associated with reading is immature and not well connected. I believe the preschool period is a sensitive period for the development of simple phonological awareness– how words sound and how words are segmented.
Guess what is the best way to nurture phonological awareness in preschoolers (and even in younger toddlers and babies)? Reading rhyming books! Telling nursery rhymes, word plays, rhyming songs and rhyming games. etc.
When I posted my favorite books for interaction reading (here) I purposefully chose narrative as opposed to rhyming books. Interactive reading naturally lends itself to narratives, however, rhyming books are just as important.
Print awareness is also nurtured during shared reading time with parents. Books with large print, redundant text, and print that is embedded in the story are excellent for helping children map sound to letters. Also, when parents point to salient text (large, contextualized words in a book) it increases the amount of time 3-5 year olds look at the words on the page as well as recognition of the words in another setting. When parents do not point to the text while reading children spend less than 2% of time looking at the words.
Top Three Things to Do During Storytime
1. Ask your child questions about the story (interactive reading).
2. Read different kinds of books, both rhyming and narratives are great for different reasons.
3. Point to the words on the page, especially if they are contextual. For example, in Go Go Go Stop, the letters are large and colored text.