Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Hickory Dickory Dock, the mouse ran up the clock.

What do all of these rhymes have in common? Besides being just plain fun to say, research shows that a child's knowledge of nursery rhymes and other common childhood songs is one of the best predictors for reading readiness in kindergarten students. Simply put, kids that spend time singing and rhyming as babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are more likely to be ready to read as they enter school.

Why is this? Both rhyming and singing help children learn how language works. Songs, rhymes, and rhythm help your child hear the smaller parts in words, the sounds and the syllables. This skill is called phonological awareness, and it's one skill children need to learn how to read.

What can you do to encourage phonological awareness in your child? The great news is that it's easy! Sing away and have fun while you're doing it. Your child loves the sound of your voice, so sing loudly and proudly, and they'll join you, learning along the way.

Here are some other things you can do to encourage this skill in your child:

Recite nursery rhymes. Remember all those rhymes from when you were a child? Don't worry if you don't! JCPL has a large nursery rhyme collection to help you out.

Make up your own songs and rhymes. Nonsense rhymes are fun for kids and still teach them about sounds. Change the lyrics to some of your favorite songs or make up a silly rhyme about your day.

Read rhyming books. Ask your Children's Librarian for suggestions. Cut pictures out of a magazine or print them from the Internet to make your own rhyming book. For example, you could include a picture of a cat, bat, rat, and hat to learn about the -at word family.

Play Fill in the Blank. Once your child has been exposed to nursery or other rhymes, ask him to finish your sentence with the correct rhyming word. Run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread ________ (man).

Have a dance party. Turn on some tunes and sing and dance to your favorite songs. Invite the whole family. Get some exercise while you're singing, learning, and having fun.

Attend storytime! Our Children's Librarians use songs and rhymes in every storytime we do. And nothing makes us happier than a group of kids singing along with us. You may even learn some new songs on your visit. Every branch offers storytimes, so check our Events Calendar to find the next one at your branch.

Download our Rhyme and Song Book. We have compiled some of our favorite songs and rhymes in this Rhyme and Song Book. While there's some classics here, we also hope you find something new to love as well!

If you make even a few of these activities part of your playtime with your child, you will be giving them a great head start on the road to reading.

All of Our Best,

The Johnson County Public Library Children's Staff