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How to teach onsets and rimes {rhyming books list}

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Learning about and isolating onsets from rimes is a key part of developing one’s phonemic awareness, which is the ability to recognize sounds within a word. 

When looking at a single syllable word, the onset is the beginning sound before the vowel. The words “onset” and rime” are fancy ways of looking at a CVC (consonant – vowel – consonant) word and further developing phonemic awareness.

For example, for the word, “bat”: 

The onset is the beginning phoneme (single sound) in the word.

The rime is the part of the word with the vowel and letter or letters that follow.

the /b/ is the onset

/at/ is the rime 

/b/ in “bat”, the onset, is the first phonemic sound in the word, /a/ and /t/ are the next two phonemic sounds. But we put the /a/ and /t/ together to make the rime /at/.


Why do we teach about onsets and rimes?

Of course, we don’t say the words “onset” or “rime” to children, but cultivating the vital skills onsets and rimes teach will help the child learn about word families and will help your child develop vital speaking and reading skills for the future! This will lay a solid foundation for spelling and literacy skills for the future. An understanding of these phonetic skills is vital for their future success.


How to teach onsets and rimes?

To begin with, phonemic awareness is built through oral and ear word play. This can be reading nursery rhymes. This can be asking for a word that rhymes with “pig” or “mug”. You can show pictures to a child, ask what it is , then show them another picture that rhymes with that picture (“cat” and “mat” or “cut” and “mutt”).


Here are some examples for how to phrase this simple word talk time: 


If you put these sounds together, what word would it make?

/r/ + /ed/

/z/ + /ap/

/l/ + /uck/

/h/ + /op/

/b/ + /oy/


Reading rhyming books is the best way to familiarize your child with these concepts and to grow them

Also, reading simple rhyming books will help with onset and rime development. Here are some fun suggestions: 

123 Do the Shark

123 Do the Dinosaur

Build Me a Home

Busy Trucks on the Go

Dan the Taxi Man

Hooray, It’s Garbage Day

See You Later Alligator

Ted in a Red Bed

Big Pig on a Dig

Ted & Friends (collection of 12 silly rhyming stories)


Dr. Seuss is the absolute master and I highly recommend some of our favorites:

The Cat in the Hat

Green Eggs and Ham

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

Hop on Pop

Here is a full Seuss collection of 16 books!


We also love these familiar classics from Eric Carle & Bill Martin:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Baby Bear Baby Bear, What Do You See?

Panda Bear Panda Bear, What Do You See?

Polar Bear Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?


This post is Post 5 of 10 in our Learning Language Series. See all of the posts, with Teaching Tools packed into each post, here:

  • How can I help my child grow in language learning before reading?
  • onsets and rimes

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    1. What is phonological awareness?
    2. Why is rhyming an important language skill? {free nursery rhyme printable}
    3. What is phonemic awareness?
    4. How can I help my child develop phonemic awareness?
    5. How can I teach onsets and rimes?
    6. What is the importance of counting syllables in words?
    7. How can I help my child create sentences and count words in sentences?
    8. How to create a solid vocabulary from infancy?
    9. What is phonics and how do we begin reading?
    10. How can I help my child grow in language learning before reading?
    onsets and rimes

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