Celebrate Poetry!

Celebrate PoetryJoin us as we celebrate poets and their amazing work for Poet’s Day (August 21st)! This is also a good time to reflect on the benefits of poetry for children, some children’s poets we can introduce them to, and explore ways we can encourage them to create their own poetry!

What’s the Big Deal?

When we introduce our kids to books and materials that focus on rhyme, they learn to hear the natural rhythms of spoken language. Rhymes help children hear the phonetic connections between words with similar spellings and sounds. This is one reason that poetry should be an important part of our home libraries.

Have you ever noticed how your little one loves for you to read and re-read those books with rhyming sing-song words? I think I could still nearly quote Good Night Moon from memory after all the years of reading it to my kids! Poetry is also easy to memorize. Think about how many nursery rhymes you still know by heart! When kids commit a poem to memory, they begin to learn that stories have a beginning, middle and an end. They also are able to “read” the poem by themselves – even if they really don’t know how to read yet.

A Few Poets to Get You Started

Since we know that poetry is an important part of a child’s reading development, what can we do to help increase their interest in poetry? We can start by introducing them to great poets! You can begin with the following:

  • Robert Louis Stevenson – You probably know him better for his classic works like Kidnapped and Treasure Island; but Stevenson was also a very accomplished poet. A Child’s Garden of Verses is a great collection of poems to have in your home!
  • Shel Silverstein – The beloved author of Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic is a fun poet for children to begin reading.
  • Langston Hughes – Hughes was one of the earliest pioneers of jazz poetry. Poetry for Young People is a wonderful resource for introducing young people to his amazing work.

Helpful Web Sites and Apps

Another way you can foster a love of poetry in your child is by introducing her to cool websites and apps that promote poetry. Here are a few to check out today:

  • Poems by Heart from Penguin Classics – With this app kids can learn to recite over two dozen poems by heart! A fun and challenging way to learn poetry. Ages 12+.
  • Acrostic Poems – This site allows children to create and save their very own acrostic poetry.
  • ShelSilverstein.com – Kids will love perusing this fun site. It’s filled with fun, games, animations, and other cool resources from Shel Silverstein.

 We hope you will join Red Apple Reading in celebrating Poet’s Day. After all, we could all use a little more poetry in our lives!


The Importance of Nursery Rhymes

The Importance of Nursery RhymesFriday, May 1st is Mother Goose Day. Most of us probably remember reading from some version of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes while growing up. I often read nursery rhymes to my babies from a board book we had in our home library. I have very fond memories of chanting Hickory Dickory Dock, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill to my little ones. When I was reading these rhymes to my kids, I mistakenly thought I was just reading a bed time story. Little did I know that I was actually laying a foundation for reading in their lives. Today Red Apple Reading would like to remind parents why the simple nursery rhyme is so important.

One reason nursery rhymes are important is because…well, they rhyme. Before a child learns to read, she must understand that words are made up of different sounds; and the manipulation of these sounds creates words. Hearing rhymes helps our little ones develop an ear for words with similar sounds. Such as “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumped over the candle stick”. Learning to recognize words with the same ending sound will ultimately help your child learn to read!

Nursery rhymes are easy for children to memorize. The short rhythmic nature of nursery rhymes makes them simple and fun to repeat. These short passages committed to memory help children feel they know the story and can “read” it for themselves while turning pages. This type of practicing instills a love of literacy at a young age.

Another advantage that the sing-song rhythm of nursery rhymes offers is the boost it gives to little one’s brains. When children hear the pleasant rhythms of these stories, it actually helps their cognitive development!

Last, but certainly not least, nursery rhymes are fun! Children love hearing these stories over and over and they lend themselves easily to fun play. How many times have you done the finger play, The Itsy Bitsy Spider with a small child; or bounced a little one upon your knee while chanting, Ride a Little Horsie amid giggles and squeals? These amusing interactions help children develop vocabulary, and connect nursery rhymes (thus reading) with fun!

In honor of the beloved Mother Goose, get out your book of nursery rhymes and read them with your children. These classic verses will create a firm literary foundation for your child and provide fond memories for you and your little ones in the future!

Phonemic Awareness: A Foundation for Reading

Phonemic Awareness: A Foundation For Reading - Red Apple ReadingRed Apple Reading is committed to children’s literacy! Here we will explore the importance of phonemic awareness as a foundation for reading. You probably already understand the concept even if you don’t immediately recognize the name. Now for the definition:

Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand how the spoken word is made up of individual units of sound, and how manipulating these sound units changes the meaning of words.

Why is Phonemic Awareness Important?

Why does a frequent portion of my kindergarten child’s homework involve me asking what sound he hears at the beginning of the word pat, cat, and bat? Does it really matter if he knows that the sound in the middle of the word, pot is short O? Yes it does! According to the International Literacy Association, “Research has shown that a child’s awareness of the sounds of spoken words is a strong predictor of his or her later success in learning to read.” Because phonemic awareness plays such an important foundational role in your kiddo’s ability to read, it’s important to help your little one develop this skill.

How Can I Help Improve My Child’s Phonemic Awareness?

Segmenting, blending, rhyming and identifying sounds are just a few ways you can help your child improve her phonemic awareness.

  • Segmenting – Breaking words down into their individual sounds. For example, you can ask your child to break the word dog into its individual sounds – /d/ /o/ /g/.
  • Blending – This is pretty much the opposite of segmenting. Try asking your kiddo to blend the sounds, /c/ /a/ /t/ together. Cat, of course, is the word she should make.
  • Rhyming – Reading books with lots of rhyming words is a great way to build phonemic awareness in kids. You could also ask your child if two words rhyme. They can give a thumbs up if they do rhyme and thumbs down if they don’t!
  • Identifying Sounds – Ask your kid what sound he hears at the beginning of the word pot, or what’s the last sound he hears in the word pig. You can do this with all kinds of different words.

Mastering phonemic awareness is foundational to becoming a strong reader. Want more ideas on increasing your little one’s phonemic awareness? Check out these excellent resources!

  • Kids Activities Blog: Have some phonemic awareness fun with these great activities using alphabet sound tubs!
  • Imagination Soup: Discover 5 ways to play with sounds in words using picture cards.
  • Fun-A-Day: This series of posts on teaching kids about rhyming is a valuable resource for teaching phonemic awareness
  • Red Apple Reading: This informative YouTube video gives a brief explanation of phonemic awareness, and how you can help your kid improve his.


What is Phonemic Awareness? Reading Essentials #17

What is Phonemic Awareness?If you’ll recall from our last Reading Essentials post, there are five essential skills your child must learn in order to be proficient in reading. Over the coming weeks, we will be exploring each of these skills in-depth. In this first post, we’ll be discussing the first skill that your child must acquire—phonemic awareness—as well as tips and strategies you can use to support your child along the way to mastery of this skill.

Phonemic awareness is the awareness of sounds and sound patterns in a word. Eventually, your child will be able to associate these sounds with letters, but just recognizing sounds alone is the first step.

Your child hears and speaks sounds every day, but there are still plenty of things you can do to help accelerate his phonemic awareness. Some activities include:

  • Introduce syllables. Helping your child recognize syllables is a great way of helping her understand that words are made up of different sounds. Clapping or snapping out syllables together and counting the number of syllables in a word are fun activities that teach the concept of syllables. You can also compete with your child to see who can think of the word with the most syllables.
  • Teach your child songs and rhymes:  Children’s songs and nursery rhymes can give children practice with hearing the natural rhythms of spoken language. Introduce your child to books and materials that focus on rhymes. As with word families, rhymes help children hear the phonetic connections between words with similar spellings and sounds.
  • Play rhyming games: Increase your child’s familiarity with rhymes by having him or her make up songs or poems, play matching games with rhyming words, and come up with new or unusual rhymes. For more rhyming fun, check out these rhyming words activities.
  • Discover beginning middle and end sounds: Start with any given word and ask your child which sounds she hears at the beginning, middle, and end of each word. Start with short Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) words such as “cat,” “bug,” “map,” etc. As your child masters these simple words, you can move on to more complex ones. Be sure to check out this fun song set to the tune of Old MacDonald Had a Farm!
  • Play Phoneme isolation games: Give your child practice with hearing sounds within words. For example, you can go on a “sound hunt” around the home, finding all of the objects that have the /s/ sound in them (stove, soap). To make the game more challenging, you can look for objects that have the same vowel sound in them (s/i/nk, refr/i/gerator).
  • Practice with “Word Families”: Read books to your child or introduce your child to videos that focus on a particular word family, for example words that end in “-an” or “-ad.” There are endless ways to practice word families. Start with these creative activities from Education.com.

One note to keep in mind when practicing different sounds with your child is that individual phonemes are comprised of one sound only. For example, the /b/ sound in the letter “b” is a short sound, and should not be pronounced like “buh” or “beh.” When pronouncing letter sounds as a model for your child, try to keep each sound as distinct as possible—this will make it easier for your child to eventually blend multiple sounds together to make words.

For instance, a child who knows that the letters “b,” “a,” and “t” have the sounds /b/, /a/, and /t/ can eventually blend those sounds into the word “bat.” However, if the child hears those sounds as “buh,” “ah,” and “tuh,” he or she may attempt to blend the sounds into a multi-syllable or overly complicated word.

Phonemic awareness is one of the most important reading skills a child can learn. Once your little one understands that stories are made up of sentences, sentences are made up of words, words are made up of letters, and letters are made up of sounds, then you’ve won half the battle, and your child will be reading to you in no time!

The Importance of Nursery Rhymes – Reading Essentials #10

The Importance of Nursery RhymesWho isn’t familiar with Jack and Jill tumbling down the hill, or Little Boy Blue falling asleep and letting his animals running amuck, or Little Miss Muffet getting scared by a spider? I remember reading nursery rhymes as a child from a big Mother Goose book that was very old, and is still packed away in the attic somewhere. When my daughters were young, they read from a more modern-looking book with larger print and more colorful illustrations.

These stories have been around for hundreds of years, and while fun to chant (I can still recite many of them from memory), they also serve a very important purpose in your young child’s reading development. Read on to find out why these old tales are still so important to share today.

Language Development
Since even the youngest children can learn to sing or speak a rhyme, rhymes offer them the opportunity to verbalize full sentences and complicated vocabulary at an early age. Children learn the basic structures and language patterns of the English language. They also pick up on the rhythm of language and often develop an appreciation of poetry. Children have to hear the language (a lot!) when they are younger in order to, later, understand what they are reading. Nursery rhymes are great for reading out loud due to their rhythmic nature, and gives children exposure to the language and sounds necessary to learn how to read.

Vocabulary Development
Reading or singing nursery rhymes can greatly enhance the size of a child’s vocabulary. A nursery rhyme such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” for example, contains complex words such as “twinkle” and “wonder.” Children will likely hear words they would not otherwise encounter in everyday conversation. Exposure to new words and concepts greatly increases the likelihood that a child will learn how to read well.

Cognitive Development
How is it I can still recall nursery rhymes so easily after so many years? The musical sing-song and rhythmical nature of them helps with memory and recall of information. Learning and repeating nursery rhymes can also give children practice with the sequencing of events. Many are “mini stories” with clear beginnings, middles, and endings. In addition, a child who has memorized a nursery rhyme could then “read” that rhyme within the context of the book. He or she can practice holding a book, turning the pages in the correct order, and verbalizing in sequence with pictures (even if the words “read” by the child are not the exact words on the page).

If you don’t already have a book of nursery rhymes at home somewhere, it’s time to dig one up or go to the library. Nursery rhymes are fun and funny with colorful characters, and they encourage reading time together. You can recite or sing nursery rhymes with your child at practically any time–in the car, during bath time, in the supermarket–and give him practice with reading fundamentals even when you don’t have access to printed material.

There are also many websites where you can find nursery rhymes. Here are a few online resources to explore:
Rhymes & Fingerplays for Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers
Enchanted Learning Rebus Rhymes and Rhyme Printouts
Mother Goose Club – Songs, Videos, Printables
Popular Nursery Rhymes from HooplaKidz – YouTube

Do you remember learning nursery rhymes as a kid? Did you have a favorite? Please share with us!