The Seuss boost: Rhyme helps children retain words from shared storybook reading

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This study examines the potential benefits of rhyme on young children’s word retention during shared reading. In two experiments, 2- to 4-year-old children heard their parent read either a rhymed or non-rhymed version of the same animal story, and were then tested on how many animal names they subsequently recognized from the story in Experiment 1 and could correctly identify in Experiment 2. In both experiments, children performed better in the rhyme condition across the age range despite differing levels of word familiarity. While there were no other differences between conditions in parents’ reading styles or the emphasis placed on the animal names, parents’ dramatic pausing just before reading animal names may have promoted children’s ability to anticipate animals before they were initially named. These findings supported the hypothesis that rhyme combined with parental behavior can facilitate active prediction on the part of children, which in turn may contribute to their word retention and learning from the storybooks.