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Rhymetime week encourages children to be bilingual

‘What happens in the early years really matters,’ says BookTrust Cymru

CARDIFF libraries are taking part in the Big Welsh Rhymetime – helping babies, toddlers and parents to develop their language and social skills.

Rhymetime session at Ely and Caerau Community Hub

Around 2,300 children are expected to take part in the celebration of Welsh rhymes across Wales at venues including a range of libraries such as Canton, Ely and Central.

They will use Welsh and English rhymes and engage parents to support children’s physical activity, co-ordination, confidence and speaking and listening skills.

Helen Wales, head of BookTrust Cymru, said: “What happens in the early years really matters. It’s sad to say, but children who fall behind in the early years generally tend to stay behind.

“One thing that can be overlooked is that it’s hard to read and write if you don’t have language already. What you need to read and write is to speak and listen.”

BookTrust liaise with Bookstart, which is funded by the Welsh Government. It provides English and Welsh book packs for babies and toddlers at their respective six- and 27-month health check-up.

Margaret Holt, Bookstart co-ordinator, said: “It’s nice to have these promotions to support the importance of cheering rhymes and songs. It’s not just about the educational side, but socially and for the baby’s development. It creates a bond with the parent and child.”

Mrs Holt uses bilingual books and rhymes in English and Welsh.

She said: “The rhymes and songs particularly are ideal ways of encouraging non-welsh speakers to enjoy the language, since you’re playing with words.

“Songs break down the barrier of thinking ‘I can’t access Welsh at all’.”

Although it’s aimed at babies and toddlers, parents can also take part.

“The parents will have their babies on their knees or cradled. Some of the rhymes will engage them too – for example, Round and Round the Garden, where you show basic language repeated and the parents show by action,” said Mrs Holt.

“It’s such a lifelong skill. It’s a great way to meet new people and for mums and dads who have never thought of coming to the library.

“The babies and parents take part with interactive things like scarves and other props.”

Ms Wales said: “Singing songs and rhymes is a really important skill for building relationships, developing language skills and for face to face activities, which little children need.

“Songs such as Little Miss Muffet, for example, where you wouldn’t hear words like ‘tuffets’ and ‘curds’ and ‘whey’ anywhere else. They carry really rich language in them.”

Mrs Holt said that 12 sessions have been held already with around 15-20 left this week.

  • To find out more about BookTrust Cymru and Bookstart, click here.
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