Monday, April 19, 2021

Rhythm and Rhyme: Read Alouds that Support Reading Fluency

April is Poetry Month and here at Russ On Reading we continue our exploration of poetry read alouds for children with a few books that tell their stories in rhyme. Call it doggerel if you will, what children will tell you is that these stories are entertaining and that the rhymes add to the fun. What reading specialists will tell you is that the rhythm and rhyme in these stories support young readers developing fluency. There are many rhyming books out there, some are very familiar like Click, Clack Moo or the many Dr. Seuss books, but here are some of my favorites that may not be as well known.

My son's favorite book when he was growing up, Drummer Hoff,by Barbara Emberley with Caldecott Medal winning illlustrations by Ed Emberley, tells the cumulative story of soldiers of various ranks building a cannon. The ending of the story provides a kind of Where Have All the Flowers Gone?  message to the militaristic affair. Get your kids walking around the room chanting, "Drummer Hoff fired it off!"

My wife, the literacy educator Cindy Mershon, introduced me to the works of Roy Gerard and I have been a happy reader ever since. Gerard has mastered the form of silly rhymes to tell a story like no other author. Sir Cedric is the story of a gallant, chivalrous, and extremely short, Sir Cedric, and his efforts to save the beautiful Matilda from the evil clutches of Black Ned. An absolute joy to read aloud.

I fell in love with the work of Richard Armour while in high school reading his fractured, irreverent, satirical takes on history, Shakespeare, and classical literature. As a teacher, I discovered that Armour also used his gifts to entertain and inform children. This book is out of print, sadly, and may be a bit hard to find, but used bookstores and online outlets like Abe Books, have copies readily available and cheap. All Sizes and Shapes of Monkeys and Apes teaches children about these animals in a most entertaining and rhyme filled way. Don't miss gems like this:

If you think that an ape must be heavy and clumsy,
Slow moving, big-bellied,
As well as all thumbsy,
Consider the Gibbon, so slender and agile,
Beside the Gorilla, he'd look almost fragile.

Former Disney animation illustrator, Bill Peet, has written many wonderful books for children. The Caboose Who Got Loose tells the story of Katy a young caboose who is dissatisfied with her life tethered to the back of a smoky, dirty train. One day an accident sets her free and after many adventures, Katy learns a lesson about enjoying what life brings to you.

Mom is stretched to her limit by her seven children who all have different tastes in food. Amid the chaos, Mom is worried the kids will forget all about her birthday, but to her surprise the kids have been planning a special, and delicious, treat for her all along. The Seven Silly Eaters is wonderfully told in rhyme by Maryann Hoberman, with winning illustrations by Marla Frazel. Don't miss this one.

All of these books provide great fun and joyful immersion in playful language. What better way to celebrate Poetry Month?

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