CHILDREN ARE missing out on rhyme because there is no equivalent to Listen with Mother on the radio, according to Julia Donaldson, the children's author known for her "Gruffalo" books.
The Glasgow-based London-born writer believes that, although many children are exposed to more books from infancy, they do not absorb nursery rhymes and other forms of rhyming poetry as she did as a child. When she was a primary age pupil, everyone attended whole-school assembly and sang two hymns examples of traditional rhyming poetry but that rarely happens now, she says.
Ms Donaldson believes the use of rhyme and rhythm can aid early literacy. She warns against schools adopting too rigid an approach to reading schemes, saying that phonics may work with some children but "flash cards" and "look and say" methods with others.
Ms Donaldson was a speaker at the annual conference of Bookstart in Scotland, held last week in Glasgow. Delegates heard that an independent evaluation of the scheme in Sighthill, Edinburgh an area of deprivation and poor academic achievement had found evidence of success.
Jenny Spratt, a member of the research-based Rowan Group in Aberdeen University's education faculty, found that Bookstart's provision of free books to mothers in their babies' early months, along with Rhymetime sessions in the local library, had encouraged book-sharing with infants.
Through data analysis and interviews with staff and a focus group of parents and carers, the researchers had found that book-sharing had encouraged communication between parents and very young children. The Rhymetime sessions had helped change the library environment, making it more welcoming to teen agers, and encouraged children to return once they reached school-age.