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To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme, The Best Bedtime Stories!

Clip clop, clip clop, trip trap, trip trap. “Now I'm coming to gobble you up,” roared the troll. “Well, come along! I've got two spears, and I'll poke your eyeballs out at your ears; I've got besides two curling-stones, And I'll crush you to bits body and bones."

I remember this story just as vividly as when it was first read to me over 50 years ago! If I really give it some thought I can picture what I imagined it looked like as I was peering up through the beaten old wooden planks of the bridge, as the three Billy Goats Gruff passed over one at a time. Clip clop, trip trap! I must say that I don't remember it being as violent as it now seems. I'm guessing when it was originally published back in 1841 the etiquette now adopted for children today, was not top of mind. Nevertheless, that short little rhyme stuck in my head for over half a century. There are times I can't remember what I did last week, yet that little poem has stayed with me for a lifetime.

Hello, my name is Peter Thomas; I'm the author of The Adventures of Billy Bee children's book series and I'd like to share an incredible animated story that, by the way, also rhymes! A wonderful, positive, feel-good story that you’ll want your child to remember for many years to come! Go ahead, no strings attached. It’s all yours. I'll wait...

I hope you enjoyed the adventure! I’ve had a wonderful time putting it all together and I hope that you, too, can create some very special memories. Memories that you will cherish for a lifetime! My gift to you… Please share it with a friend.

Story time has always been a special time for most families. When I think back, I still get the same feelings I did then, when I hopped into bed, propped up the pillows, got all tucked in, and settled under the covers, and waited for Story-time to start. These magical children's book adventures would come alive, flow out of the books, and dance around my mind until I drifted off to sleep. I didn't realize what a special time in life that was back then. What a warm, wonderful feeling I still get when I think about it. After raising two children of my own, I realized more than ever how important the content is that we allow to dance around children’s minds before they drift off to sleep! Scientific facts back that up! Let me quote something for you:

“The single most significant factor influencing a child's early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.” — National Commission on Reading, 1985

One more :)

“Given the course of brain development, children who are exposed to certain early language and literary experiences usually proved to be good readers later. Just as a child develops language skills long before being able to speak, the child also develops literacy skills long before being able to read.” National Research Council (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington D.C. National Academy Press

It has been long discovered and scientifically proven that when we read to a child, it does a lot more than occupy their time for the 10 minutes we take to narrate their adventure of choice! So, when we realize this, the stories we choose to capture their precious, young, information-absorbing new minds become so very important!

School Presentation story time with the author Peter Thomas and the Adventures of Billy Bee
Children's Book Series Story Time with Billy Bee

I personally love books, and I think most books are awesome… especially the good ones! There's something very special about being able to bring a smile to someone’s face and make them laugh or hold their breath in suspense as they read where the next few sentences are about to take them! Allow them to eat with Kings and Queens, then go fight the scary monsters and win every time, and so much more, by just turning the pages of a book. When I used to travel to schools to present my books to the children, I’d ask them, “What was it that separated our behavior from the animals? How did we go from living in caves, hunting and fishing to stay alive, to us living in houses, eating in restaurants, and shopping in grocery stores?” I really love some of the responses that the children would shout out. There were too many to post, so I promise to do another blog on school presentations. Stay tuned!

School presentation with Peter Thomas and The Adventures of Billy Bee
The students have the answers!

So, did you figure it out?… It was the creation of a written form of communication! When we transitioned from writing on the cave walls and started recording everything we did on tablets, then paper, our whole existence developed. Now, I’m not sure if they ever found any poetry written on the walls of those caves, but a few of the pictures would certainly suggest some possibilities. The importance of the written word is so powerful and amazing, if the content is interesting and good, I really don't think it matters whether it's poetry or prose. I write my stories in verse, so of course I'm going to tell you how wonderful it is to read in poetic rhythm, and all the wonderful benefits that go along with it! And there are a lot of proven benefits! Like remembering something that was read to you over 50 years ago, yet not being able to remember where you parked your car at the mall a few hours back. Well let me see how far I can take you back… Who remembers “The Itsy, Bitsy, Spider?” Where did he go???... He went up the waterspout. And what happened when, down came the rain?... It washed the spider out! Or where was Humpty Dumpty sitting, and Jack and Jill went where? Now c’mon be honest! How long ago was it when you first heard these rhymes? OK, maybe not over 50 years ago, but I bet it was a while

back and I bet you remember the ending to most of them. I can't tell you how many times parents have told me they can't skip any pages in my stories because the children have them memorized by heart. As I continually heard this, it piqued my interest, so I decided to take a deeper look. Let me share with you what I discovered when I researched the power behind rhyming.

By singing and re-telling familiar rhymes and rhyming stories we teach our children: – auditory discrimination – listening skills – a rich range of language – concentration skills – oral storytelling / poetry skills -phonemic awareness.

And it gets even better:

Nursery rhymes and songs can be used anywhere at any time. As such, they are one of our most transportable forms of play. Here are some of the ways fingerplays, rhymes, chants, and songs teach children concepts and skills and even provide emotional support. 1.) Language Development. As children recite rhymes and sing songs, they are learning new vocabulary and how to articulate words, modulate their voices, and enunciate clearly. They are simultaneously practicing pitch, volume, and voice inflection while experiencing the rhythm of language. They learn to pronounce words easily by saying them over and over again and by practicing them without effort or the pressures of criticism.

2.) Reading Skills. In almost all fingerplays, the hands move from left to right. This left-to-right directional motion is important for children to experience, since it prepares them for the order of the written word in English. (When you read to your children, let them follow your finger, tracing the words so they also absorb this concept from the written words in a book.) A second important reading concept that children must experience fully before they can become good readers is story sequence. They need to absorb how the sequence of what happened first, second, third, etc., and last affects the story so they can retell it in the order the events occurred. 3.) Math Concepts. There is frequent use of counting in young children’s songs and rhymes, in both a forward and backward direction. Children learn to add as they count forward and subtract as they count backward. Other stories and songs explore words that describe size (“Billy Goats Gruff”) and weight (“The Three Bears”) and use math-related words to define concepts such as many, few, plenty, and so on. This contributes to the child’s basic math foundation, which will later help in math abstractions. 4.) Creative Dramatization. Rhymes and songs provide great building blocks for creative dramatics. Children love to act out the rhymes as they say them, dramatizing the actions of the characters with their whole bodies or using their hands and fingers. When children are encouraged by an adult to display their creativity in an atmosphere that is free of criticism, their sense of self is strengthened and their confidence in expressing themselves is increased. 5.) Comfort and Support. Nursery rhymes and songs are “places” young children can retreat to when they feel lonely, sad, or bewildered by their world. If a child is away from Mom or Dad and feeling alone, they can call upon a song or rhyme they shared and be reminded of the times and the feelings they had when they sang it together. Thank You for those wonderful statistics!! More References below *

Wow! I love that they mentioned Billy Goats Gruff!! So, let's put this all together. Rhyming stories, nursery rhymes, sing along songs, and good old-fashioned children's book stories all being read aloud to children has proven to be one of the most significant factors in early childhood development. That’s my favorite part!

Author Peter Thomas doing a school presentation and reading to the students from his book, The Colors of Love
Close your eyes and dream, it will all be up to you, Somewhere now inside your mind your dreams may all be true...

All of this helps form the foundational skills needed to develop children’s communication skills. The better they communicate their thoughts and feelings, the better chance they will have at creating their own wonderful life to live. And isn't that all we want for our children?

A family being read story time adventures from the children's book series  The Adventures of Billy Bee
Once Upon a Time... It's Time To Beelieve!

Now, remember I'm partial to verse because that's what I write, but I have a lot of friends that write in prose and they have wonderful stories, too. I personally think that it all comes down to this: The most important factor of all early childhood development has proven that when we read along with our children it strengthens their concentration and focus, their vocabulary and language skills, and enhances their ability to problem solve by asking questions as they will in the stories that we read to them. The benefits are endless! This is an amazing revelation and the real beauty about it is, that reading stories together can be easily implemented into a child’s routine. What does it take to read a good children's book? 10 to 15 minutes? The really sad part is, children who don't get these few minutes three times, twice, or even once a week, have been documented and scientifically proven to have less communication and cognitive skills than those that do. Think about that for a second, the impact that 10 to 15 minutes can have on a child’s future.

Here’s some research that will help you put that in perspective done by Professor Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University. Her extensive research stemmed from one of her earlier studies which found that about one-quarter of children in the national sample were never read to and another quarter were seldom read to (once or twice weekly).

"The fact that we had so many parents who said they never or seldom read to their kids was pretty shocking to us. We wanted to figure out what that might mean for their kids," Logan said.

The researchers collaborated with the Columbus Metropolitan Library, which identified the 100 most circulated books for both board books (targeting infants and toddlers) and picture books (targeting preschoolers). Logan and her colleagues randomly selected 30 books from both lists and counted how many words were in each book. They found that board books contained an average of 140 words, while picture books contained an average of 228 words.

With that information, the researchers calculated how many words a child would hear from birth through his or her 5th birthday at different levels of reading. They assumed that kids would be read board books through their 3rd birthday and picture books the next two years, and that every reading session (except for one category) would include one book. They also assumed that parents who reported never reading to their kids actually read one book to their children every other month. Based on these calculations, here's how many words kids would have heard by the time they were 5 years old: Never read to, 4,662 words; 1-2 times per week, 63,570 words; 3-5 times per week, 169,520 words; daily, 296,660 words; and five books a day, 1,483,300 words.

Wow! Those numbers are staggering! So, in a nutshell, it all comes down to this, something so incredibly easy: 10 to 15 minutes out of your day will produce some long-term benefits for children that are simply amazing! That’s it! Just get some good books and take them on one of those 10-minute adventures! They will love having you on the journey. Ignite their thirsting new minds with questions and answers and emotions! Recite some nursery rhymes and a couple of verses of “Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight,” and keep that magical power flowing out of these stories and dancing around their precious, young, information-absorbing, new minds! And if it was a hard day and you need a break, just turn on Callie’s Wish, that hopefully you listened to earlier! In that version, I do the reading and talking for you and I even try to hide as much of my Boston accent as humanly possible! You still might have to explain to the children that they’ll get just as wet in the wattah as they do in the water. ; ) But if the accent’s too much and you want to read it yourself, I understand. There are beautiful print versions available here… Callie’s Wish.

In closing, I would like to say how much I really enjoyed this, my first blog. My writing has always been a very special part of my life. It's always great being able to learn and share with people who are genuinely interested in and enjoy what I enjoy writing. And just to give you some more insight and behind-the-scenes information, I'm working on my next blog already, which will be about what the benefits of reading to children has on the adults. You're not going to believe what I'm uncovering. It is so amazing to me how fast time has gone by and how much has changed in the world of writing in these past 30 years. I'll never forget when I first started, way before computers, tablets, and smartphones; I used to spend a lot of time in Barnes & Noble and I always loved how it felt when I opened the door and stepped inside this wonderful building filled with knowledge.

My wife who 30 years back was my new girlfriend, Jillie, or better known in the Colors of Love story as Jolly Jillie, used to go with me all the time. “She's the star in that story, the one with the ponytail, and yes, I guess I’m the Bee with the blue sneaks they call Billy.” :)

One day while we were in Barnes & Noble perusing different subjects, I remember looking around at all the different sections—Technology, History, Science and so on—and I had this question that was gnawing away at me! So, I asked Jillie, “Where do you think the most important section is in this big beautiful bookstore? Science? Reference? History?” And as I scanned over to the children’s book section it was like I was hit with a lightning bolt! The children’s section! That was it! Just think about it for a second! If we don't fill their minds up with the fuel, they will need to ignite their imaginations and teach them how to communicate their thoughts and tap into the unlimited possibilities that await them, those other sections won't matter. Children are by far the most precious resource that we have as a society. It reminds me of something I heard an amazing author once say... (wait a minute—that was me! ) “Through the eyes of a child we see the future of our world.” So, let's do our best to give the children something wonderful to look at! One of the best and easiest ways I can think of is to open up a good book and start with… “Once upon a time…” and I have three of them you will absolutely love… and please, share this love with a friend…

It's Been a Pleasure :)

One of the school presentations by the author Peter Thomas and the students are holding up a sign with the Billy Bee Motto printed on it. A Bizz, A Buzz, A Beez, A Bamm, I'm Billy Bee, I Am, I Am,  I Can Do Anything, I Know I Can, Cause I'm Billy Bee, I Am, I Am!
Very First School Presentation 1995 Morey School Lowell MA. Some pretty excited BEElievers!!

Thanks For BEElieving!!!

Snip, snap, snout. This tale's told out.

Peter Thomas / Author / The Adventures of Billy Bee


*References: Rhymers Are Readers: The Importance of Nursery Rhymes Anderson, P. F. (2005). The mother goose pages. Retrieved from reading.html Kenney, S. (2005). Nursery rhymes: Foundations for learning. General Music Today, 19 (1), 28–31. Monro, F. (Senior Speech-Language Pathologist). Nursery rhymes, songs and early language development. Interior Health Authority. Neuman, S. B. (2004). Learning from poems & rhymes. Scholastic Parent & Child, 12 (3), 32.

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