Can Rhyming Help Children Learn to Read Better? by Robert Z Hicks

06/15/2018 | By More

Robert Z Hicks, known as “Mr. Bob” is an award winning author and publisher of children’s rhyming picture books.  

Coming from a career of teaching college, how did you get started writing children’s books?  Had you always dreamed of someday writing children’s books?


No, it never occurred to me to write children’s books.  I thought I was retired after teaching speech communication for 24 years at the University of Hawaii. But, after watching my wife Betty chase a green tree toad around the living room trying to capture it under a paper cup, I started reminiscing about critters I enjoyed as a child growing up on my grandfather’s farm in Michigan in the 40’s.  I felt inspired to write a rhyming poem based on my memories. 

A friend encouraged me to write more stories, and there followed a flood of inspiration of rhyming stories triggered by memories of my childhood experiences.

How many stories did you write?

About 40. We took manuscripts of Tommie Turtle’s Secret, Mouse in the Manger, and several other stories to the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference in 2005 to find out what writing and publishing books entailed.  Surprised and encouraged that the stories won Best Submission for Children’s Writing, we decided to publish my first book, “Tommie Turtle’s Secret”.

What makes your books different from other children’s books out there?

The stories are written in rhyme, and each stanza is accompanied by an illustration that helps the child visualize the story and what the words are saying.

As a teacher, I add value to my books by including a study guide with questions to test comprehension, and comments to highlight things to be learned.

I discovered research that early learning of rhymes increases phonemic awareness, and improves the ability to read. Reading nursery rhymes and rhyming stories to babies and young children helps establish the ear-brain connection for discriminating sound units. 

I asked Crystal Bowman, my mentor, friend, a mother, and successful children’s author, what she thought of rhyme, which she uses in her books.

Crystal Bowman’s perspective on rhythm, rhyme, and reading:

“I know that babies are born with a strong sense of rhythm. They respond to rocking, repetition, and music. They naturally clap their hands and move to music and rhythm.
 
Text written with repetition and rhyme is a help to a struggling reader because the repetition helps them learn new words, and the rhyme helps them with pronunciation. (they know what the word needs to sound like)”

I was excited to learn that rhyming helps children read more effectively,  It gave purpose and direction for the inspiration of the stories God gave me, and for my gift for rhyme. I wasn’t looking for another career, but I am delighted to have a new purpose and cause to pursue in my life.

What is Tommie Turtle’s secret?

Tommie’s secret is the story of the day he raced speedy Hoppy Bunny to teach the bunny valuable lessons about friendship.  A surprise twist at the end highlights moral values of forgiveness, and that being nice, not bragging and teasing, is the way to make friends. 

Questions and commentary at the end of the book test comprehension, stimulate critical thinking, and provide a basis for discussion of the effect of bragging and teasing on relationships. Parents can also point out that by focusing on the abilities Tommie had, not on what he couldn’t do, Tommie could still enter the race.

“Tommie Turtle’s Secret,” won Best Children’s, and Book of the Year in the 2008 Florida Writer’s Royal Palm Awards competition.


How many books have you published?

I’ve published three picture books, “Tommie Turtle’s Secret,” “Mouse In the Manger,” and “Danny the Dragon,” and an ebook, “Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On The Farm”.  

Are you going to publish more children’s books?

Absolutely! My heart’s desire is to use my gift of rhyme to help children learn to read and to develop a love for reading!

“Tommie Turtle’s Secret” is available at:   http://robertzhicks.com/buy-now/ and on Amazon.

To preview Robert’s books, visit his website at www.robertzhicks.com

Category: News, Dyslexia, iBook

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