I had the pleasure of attending a kindergarten “family night” at an elementary school. The theme was nursery rhymes, and once again I was reminded why these rhymes are so powerful. I could (and often do) go on for days about the phonological awareness that rhyme builds, how children who are read to are exposed to thousands more words than those who hear only daily conversation and television, how we learn words best in meaningful context and how the rich language of nursery rhymes develops a child’s vocabulary, but I know I’m preaching to the choir. Instead, allow me to share with you one of my favorite nursery rhyme books, Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker. This is my go-to nursery rhyme book for littlest listeners, and all my students who are building number recognition feel like rock stars because they can read this so easily. The pictures are huge, perfect for a group share, and the text is quickly read to wiggly ones.

One of the best parts of the kindergarten family night for me was seeing how successful the students felt as they read nursery rhymes to me from books and off of posters. Because of the short, rhyming text, nursery rhymes are easily memorized, so those who are still developing word recognition and decoding skills can feel successful as they “read” from memory the rhymes. I brought a pretend candlestick (a toilet paper tube wrapped in construction paper with a red tissue paper flame which is as crafty as I get) and had students act out “Jack Be Nimble” after we read the rhyme. Amazingly fun and super-easy, make a poster of the rhyme, have 3×5 cards with your students’ names to tape up over the word “Jack”, and let your little ones be part of the rhyme.

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