The Real 3 R's: Rhyming, Repetition & Retention

When my firstborn, now 28, was very young, sometimes he’d wake up in the morning a little earlier than I’d like. Not quite ready to start the day myself, I would then grab some books, hunker down under the covers with him, and start reading aloud just to get a little more “active rest” time in for both of us. We always gravitated toward rhyming books with lots of repetition. Always. Oh sure, we read a good variety, but those rhymers were our favorites. We especially liked the Jesse Bear books by Nancy White Carlstrom and The Red Carpet by Rex Parkin. Even when son number two came along almost 8 years later, I employed the same tactics and read most of the very same books. Classics.

Fast forward through our homeschool experience, then their young adulthood, and I’m now self-publishing books in my empty-nest years. When I started this endeavor, I had a few things I hoped to accomplish: I wanted to write in rhyme, I wanted to use entertaining repetitive verse when it worked in the story, and I wanted to help develop children’s vocabularies while they were reading.

With five children’s books completed and several more in the works, I’ve stayed true to what I wanted to make happen. However, I’ve received a little criticism via Amazon reviews: “Not a book just a long poem,” “The same verse is repeated on each page,” “Book was repetitive.” Hmmm, criticism over just what I was after? Oh well, not everyone is going to agree with me, agree with me, agree with me.

There are reasons for doing what I do in children’s books. On rhyming and repetition, the following is what I wrote for the “From the Author” section of each of my books on Amazon:

Rhyming and repetition have been proven to significantly enhance the cognitive development of children. It’s good for their brains!

-Language learning is increased through phonemic awareness and word recognition through context. Their ears and eyes work better together!

-Memorization of rhymes and repetitive verse grows confidence and provides opportunities for bonding and positive social interactions. They read and smile more!

All true. As far as developing their vocabulary, it’s been researched that exposing children to unfamiliar, advanced words in illustrated books on a regular basis could grow their vocabulary by more than ten words a day.

-Reading books aloud that contain advanced words is the first step of purposeful exposure. Let them hear big words!

-Repeated reading of the same books allows for reinforcement and recognition of the advanced words. It’s okay if they pick the same books every night!

-After their eyes and ears have worked together during a read aloud, take time to ask your child what they think the big words mean. Kids love sharing what they know!

-Critical thinking skills and the ability to accurately express feelings are also benefits for children with advanced vocabularies. Their brains connect the dots more quickly!

My latest release Maiden Mermaid — The Tale of Sirena is an illustrated rhyming children’s book with a good bit of advanced vocabulary purposefully used. In the back of the book, I included a glossary with child-friendly definitions to encourage comprehension and discussions between the child and reader. The glossary will also be helpful to self-readers too. 

Remember the 3 R’s when selecting books for your child! You’ll be helping their brains more than you know!

Sheri Wall