When my daughter Emily was little, she struggled a bit with reading. She could sound out many words, but she didn’t really understand what they meant. Then I read Polly Cameron’s I Can’t Said the Ant. It’s a story told in rhyme and with a rebus element, which means some of the words had a specific picture in the actual word line like this:
This had an electrifying effect on Emily. I had to read the book out loud about a thousand times and then suddenly, she figured out that those black squiggles on the page actually meant something. The letters “ant” on the white page referred to the funny little black insects she loved to watch outside. Suddenly she began to read.
Emily’s experience is not unusual. Although children may be able to decode words, they are not necessarily reading. That is the words and sentences may have no meaning for them. Because the human brain is not hard-wired for reading the way it is for making sound or for walking, we have to create new wiring, new pathways in the brain, to allow this to happen. To my great delight reading experts say that one of the best ways to do this is to read lots and lots of nursery rhymes and folktales. With their rhythm, rhyme and repetitive patterns they help children see the images the words represent.
And now, enter Will Hillenbrand’s Mother Goose Picture Puzzles, a book that combines all this into one generously sized, brightly illustrated collection of 20 favorite nursery rhymes. Each page features a rhyme with pictures in place of some of the words. The same rebus pictures are also labeled in the main art on the page so that young would-be readers can make connections between words and images. It’s a fabulous guessing game. And not only can children enjoy that game, but another element is the hunt for a detail in each picture that hints at which nursery rhyme will be features on the next page. For instance, the artwork for “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” shows a little shepherdess in the far distance. Turn the page and there she is in “Little Bo Peep.”
I love this book and plan to buy it for all the young mothers I know! It might do for many a young child what I Can’t Said the Ant did for my Emily.
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