'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 15 October 2012

Librarian's Shelf: Reading with Rhythm

Rhythm is an essential part of language and therefore also an important part of reading. When you read a book with clear, consistent rhythm, clapping or tapping along to the beat helps reinforce it and makes the experience even more fun.

You’ll find many wonderful picture books that have great rhythm. Two that are amongst my favourites are We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, and Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is particularly suited to young children, but was originally a camp song/chant and can be enjoyed by a wide age range. It involves a group of children of various ages going on a walk - one which turns out to be an inadvertent bear hunt.

The best way to read it is as though it's being sung slowly, line by line, and pausing in between each line for children to echo - repeat - the line. The inclusion of onomatopoeic words like swishy-swashy adds meaning and excitement, and if you feel comfortable enough, you can make it even more interactive by including actions to go with them - parting the grass, swimming, and so on.

Tanka Tanka Skunk might seem like it’s for slightly older children, but it’s great for all ages. The two main characters, an elephant and a skunk, named Tanka and Skunk, explain the concept of syllables with the help of their animal friends. Here’s an example:

"This is kangaroo. His name has three beats, like this ... kan-ga-roo.

And this is caterpillar. His name has four beats, like this ... cat-er-pil-lar."

There’s plenty of rhyme and alliteration throughout, and a recurrent chorus of “Skunka, Tanka, Skunka, Tanka, Tanka, Tanka, Skunk!” Be sure to read this one through yourself before trying it with children though, as it can be quite a tongue twister.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Tanka Tanka Skunk are books that demand to be read out loud, and as you progress you’ll find you can’t help but get faster and louder. Be prepared to read both over and over again, because they’re heaps of fun for everyone, big or small!

Sarah Steed is our Consultant Librarian and reviewer. A former Children's and Young Adult Librarian, she has more than 18 years' experience working in public libraries. Sarah comes from a family of readers and has shelves full to bursting with books.