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My Top 10 Favorite Rhythmic Books for Toddlers
What you want to help your toddler with will most certainly influence your book choice! So, if you want to help your toddler boost their language skills, then these rhythmic books for toddlers are certainly worth reading.
Why? because language and music go hand-in-hand – especially for toddlers.
And, if you think about it, music and language are actually quite similar. Just take a look at these similarities:
- They both use symbols: notes in music, letters in language.
- These symbols are then combined to make something greater: compositions in music, literature in language.
- Both music and language have “structure” that follows general guidelines: music uses the staff system and language uses grammar.
- Music and language both use modes.
- You “read” both music and language.
- Studies  suggest that music and language activate similar areas in the brain!
I mean, how cool is that?! I’ve always said that if I didn’t study music, I would have studied language. And, it’s probably why I enjoyed learning German so much – which many people will tell you is not fun. But, I digress.
So, why is music important for language – particularly for toddlers?
If it’s scientific evidence you want, check out this study by two developmental psychologists. Essentially, of three groups of preschoolers, those who were assigned to the language skills group and the music group, showed a significant an increase in phonological awareness better than those who were assigned to the sports group.
What’s phonological awareness, you ask? It just means an awareness of the elements within a language, like the syllables and other basic sound structures, as well as the literary elements, like rhyming words and alliteration. So essentially, music helps children’s awareness of the sound structures in a language just as well as language lessons do!
What I want to get at here is that music and language go together so well because they have so many similarities. And one of those similarities is rhythm.
Think of it this way: rhythm is also part of language. There are so many worksheets available to teachers that work exactly on that concept! My favorite, free worksheets are those by Cori Bloom, from Rhythm and Bloom here. Each word has it’s own rhythmic pattern. Just think how boring it would be if every single syllable had the same exact value – it would sound a lot like a robot!
So, what can my toddler learn about music when I read to them?
Well, when we read to our children, we are teaching them the rhythms of the words and the sentences. Even books that introduce single words with pictures, when you read that to your child, you are teaching them the rhythm of those words.
Just take a look at this list of my 10 favorite rhythmic books below. These books are specifically picked for their highly rhythmic qualities. Books can rhyme, books can tell you a story, or books can teach your little one valuable life lessons.
But I find that fewer books have such amusing rhythmic qualities. They have a repetitiveness to them, and a flow to them that just makes you want to keep reading! Or to read them in a sing-song voice. Or to read them while bouncing your toddler on your lap.
These books are filled with basic sound elements of the English language. They are packed with rhythmic qualities, rhyming words, sound words, repetitions, and colorful stories. And, if your child happens to like sound words in particular, then check out these 5 jazzy books.
Each book has its own unique rhythm that makes you want to bounce along or read the book in a sing-song voice. And that’s exactly what I encourage you to do! So with that, here are my top 10 favorite rhythmic books to read to toddlers.
1) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr
An absolute classic. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom has been around for a while so it will be easy to get your hands on a copy. The rhythms in this book shift and change throughout so you’ll be exposing your toddler to lots of various rhythms. And what’s great is that almost all copies include the alphabet on the inside cover. So, once you’ve finished reading, why not sing the ABC song to your little one! Or, if they are learning their letters, have the book open while they are working on worksheets that help them pair their letters together.
2) Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See?, by Bill Martin, Jr
Now, the identifiable illustrations in the well-known book are immediately recognizable as Eric Carle’s (think “The Very Hungry Catepillar”). Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is probably one of simplest rhythmic books on the list here and, therefore, best for young toddlers. But the repetitions and rhymes add to the rhythmic qualities of this book. The younger children will love learning colors and animals names as they go, while older children can use this book as a first reader. Try to see if you can find a good rhythm to read this book in!
3) Book of Nursery Rhymes
Almost any nursery rhyme book will do. Nursery rhymes are, for the most part, quite rhythmic as well as rhyme-filled. My favorite are those that include all the verses of the favorites. By having all the verses available, the rhythmic qualities will show up and be more prevalent. And, for those that are turned into songs, like “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, you have easy access for all those additional verses.
4) We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen
Here’s another classic board book for toddlers. Not only is We Are Going On A Bear Hunt rhythmic, but it also makes use of TONS of literary elements. There are repetitions, rhyming words, and sound words – all of which add to the rhythmic elements of this book. It’s an adventure that your child will want to go on time and time again!
5) The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson
The Gruffalo was a steadfast favorite in our house for a long time. Now, it’s “The Smartest Giant in Town”, also by Julia Donaldson. Most of her book have an amazing sense of rhythm to them. In fact, she recently said that it’s exactly that – the flow of the words – that’s important to her. The words have to scan easily, otherwise she’ll go back and change them until they do. And, in doing so, she’s produced numerous books with delightful rhythmic stories.
6) Zin, Zin, Zin, A Violin!, by Lloyd Moss
I do not personally own a copy of this book but have seen and read it. Each verse (or page) about the new instrument that joins in has its own rhythm and it’s packed full of alliterations and rhymes, as well. There are also so many ways of reading this book! You can get creative be reading each instrument in its own “voice” or by focusing just on the rhyming words. Zin, Zin, Zin, A Violin! also lends itself well to reading in a sing-song voice!
7) Llama Llama Red Pyjama, by Anna Dewdney
Llama, Llama Red Pyjama is filled with so many rhythmic features! There are repeated words as well as internal rhymes – words that rhyme within a single line. It’s a bit of a tongue-twister but it’s absolutely perfect for following a good rhythm throughout the book. Want a bit of inspiration for one way to read this book? Then, check out this YouTube video of the author reading the book herself – in a very rhythmic fashion!
8) Jamberry, by Bruce Degen
Here is another old classic. On top of the great rhythmic qualities packed into each phrase, this books also includes loads rhyming words and made-up words. Jamberry is definitely a creative book with all the various made-up words, which can help your child great creative, too. And, I picked this book because it lends itself so well to reading in a sing-song voice. So, once you’ve got a feel for the rhythm of this book, try reading it in a sing-song voice!
9) Ada Twist, Scientist, by Andrea Beaty
Now, I’ll admit this book is best for toddlers who like longer books. Ada Twist, Scientist is a wonderful story of an inquisitive young girl, full of rhymes and rhythmic elements for each line. This book can encourage your little one to be inquisitive and ask all those important “why” questions. At the very least, the rhythmic qualities will help your child pick up all the rhythmic variations packed in each line.
10) One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, by Daniel Bernstrom
Finally, here is the story of another young adventurer – this time gobbled up by a snake! As you follow along with the boy, you’ll find all kinds of sound words, like purr, zipped, crinkle, wrinkle, and wiggle-waggle! Highlight these words and ask your child to repeat them. Perhaps, you can focus on the repetitions by saying them in the same exact tone and rhythm each time. Or, trying to read this book in an overexaggerated rhythmic pattern will help highlight some of the rhythmic patterns! In any case, One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree provides lots of options for making each reading a bit different.
Where can I get these books?
These books are popular so you’ll find them almost anywhere. But wait!!
My first suggestion is to borrow this kind of rhythmic books for toddlers from your local library. Not only do libraries almost always have a great selection of children’s books, but if your child doesn’t like listening to them, you haven’t wasted any money.
Next, if you find that these books are must-haves, then consider buying them from an actual bookshop. I highly recommend Blackwells or The Book Depository. My favorite is Blackwells, just because they started here in Oxford and I adore browsing their flagship store! But The Book Depository ships worldwide – for FREE!
So, lovely readers, there you have my 10 favorite rhythmic books. Each book gives you various options for reading style and on what you should focus. As always, be creative with your reading style!
You don’t always have to focus on the rhythm, so it also helps keep it interesting for you, too. And, either way, you’ll be providing your child will a special bonding time as well as helping boost their language skills. Win-Win!
What rhythmic books do you read? Make sure to let me know or drop a comment.
Happy music making,
 Maess, B., Koelsch, S., Gunter, T., and others. Musical syntax is processed in Broca’s area: an MEG study. Nature Neuroscience 4, 540–545 (2001).