Bookstart Rhymetimes are group activities for babies and toddlers from 0-5 yrs and their parents and carers. They are fun, free, interactive sessions organised locally which usually take place in libraries, health centres and other early years settings.

A Bookstart Rhymetime session usually lasts between 20-30 minutes and brings adults and children together in a safe and supportive environment. The sessions are informal learning opportunities which model and encourage the singing of songs and rhymes and the sharing of stories with young children.

If you’re thinking of starting a Rhymetime and would like more advice, please speak to your local Bookstart Coordinator.

 Boy with instruments at Rhymetime

Why encourage the use of rhymes?

Some of the benefits of rhymes for children include:  

  • Repetition of rhymes and singing supports language and literacy development
  • Children will take comfort from rhymes when they are repeated and become familiar
  • Rhymes are portable play things – they can be sung or said any time, any place
  • Through rhymes, children naturally learn essential skills for communicating, such as turn-taking and joining in

Evidence shows that familiarity with rhymes makes learning to read easier. This is because:

  • Rhymes help children decode words (by detecting the phonetic constituents), for example recognising that cat rhymes with mat. Rhyming words also have similar spellings (Goswami, 1986, 1988)
  • There is also a link between rhyming with children and their phonemic awareness (the ability to hear the sounds and distinguish between them in the English language) (Centre for Early Literacy Learning, 2011). Research highlights phonemic awareness as a strong predictor of a child’s reading success (Stanovich, K.E,1986; Sadlier-Oxford, 2000; Zuralski, A, 2005)
  • Knowledge of rhymes helps children progress in reading once they start school, regardless of socio-economic background, general intelligence or memory ability (longitudinal studies, for example Bradley & Bryant, 1985, MacLean et al., 1987)
  • The active role of the parent or guardian in the Rhymetime session has the potential to encourage home reading and thus increase the child’s exposure to language and stories (Hayes, 2001)

Practitioner tips for running a successful Rhymetime session

How Bookstart can support your library

Gifting Bookstart packs through libraries

Rhymes for Rhymetimes - or anytime

Gentle bedtime rhymes

Animals and nature

Listen to the Bird Boogie rhymes