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Phrase Memorization and Why It’s an Essential Milestone
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Phrase Memorization and Why It’s an Essential Milestone

From Preschool to Kindergarten, children ages 3–5 develop reading skills by leaps and bounds.

We sat down with Erin Bailey, director of programs and content at Reading Is Fundamental, to talk about this crucial time for reading development and one very important (often overlooked) literacy milestone: the memorization of phrases.

Bailey explained why this is pivotal and how parents can actively nourish this step in their child’s reading development.

Literati:

One of the things happening developmentally for readers between the ages of 3 and 5 is memorization of phrases. Can you tell us why that’s such an important reading milestone and skill that kids should work on?

Erin Bailey:

So, repetitive phrases for ages 3 to 5 is a really important skill because it helps children develop concepts about print, or what we like to call “print awareness.” This means that children are developing the awareness that spoken words can be written down, and that text conveys meaning. And the reason why repetitive phrases are so helpful is because these phrases are predictable. So they’re easy for children to make the connection between the spoken words and the text itself.

Literati:

Is there a way parents can help to reinforce that memorization of repeating phrases?

Erin Bailey:

Absolutely. Finding books with repetitive phrases and books that have a sing-song melody to them is a great way to play with and reinforce repetitive phrases.

Even singing songs can help with this—the tune of “Happy Birthday” can basically be turned into any song. I like to use it when I’m singing “good morning” to my daughter. So, instead of “happy birthday to you,” I’ll sing: “Good morning to you. Good morning to you. Good morning to Ruthie. Good morning to you.”

And using familiar melodies like this can help with that repetitive phrasing.

Some great books that reinforce repeating phrases are Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle. The words are “brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” and then the picture helps reinforce both the animal name and the color. So that’s great for vocabulary development as well. I recommend any of the books in that genre, like Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? because it’s a great repetitive book and the pictures help to support what the line is going to say next.

Another one that I would recommend is the book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. This is a great book with a repetitive phrase, and you can do it in a sing-song way, just as I did with “Happy Birthday to You.”

And you can even add motions. So, for example, for “what a beautiful day” or “long wavy grass,” you can add a hand motion or sweeping arm motions to those. And also sound effects that go along with the grass, like “swishy, squashy, swishy, squashy.” All of these things, particularly when you pair movement and sound, become a multi-sensory activity. And multi-sensory activities are the best way for children to learn because they work with all different parts of the brain.

Literati:

When you’re integrating sounds and movement, should the parent decide what that sound or movement should be, or let the kids come up with it themselves?

Erin Bailey:

I would do a combination. If the kids have a movement in mind, I would follow their lead. If they need a little bit of help, parents can certainly come up with movements for them. But I’ve found, particularly working with kids in Kindergarten and 1st Grade, they love coming up with their own movements and sound effects.

Literati:

When you introduce a child to a book with repeating phrases, is there an average amount of time it takes for them to start to memorize it?

Erin Bailey:

It depends on the child. Just like you or I, some people can listen to a song once and memorize the lyrics, and then others will have heard the song 10 times and they still don’t remember the lyrics. So, I think it definitely varies from child to child.

Want to help your child be the best reader they can be?

Literati Book Clubs deliver books for your child based on their reading level and interests—improving reading skills at their pace and adapting to their needs.

Discover our 14 Reading Levels, with Stargazer to Ranger levels recommended for children ages 3 to 5. Tell us about your reader to find which level would suit them best!

Authored by Team Literati
October 14, 2022
Included in this Article
The Stargazer Level Box

The Stargazer Level Box

12 Months 2 Years 3 Years
The Ranger Level Box

The Ranger Level Box

5 Years 6 Years 7 Years

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