Our storytimes often include songs like “Ram Sam Sam” and books like “Boom Snot Twitty,” both of which serve to improve language acquisition skills in young children but are made up of “nonsense” words. “Even though these words might not make sense, they are building language skills and phonological awareness!” I share this tip with parents in Storytime often, but I wanted to know more about why these types of activities are so beneficial. In researching this information, I found a fascinating study that came out of Sweden pertaining to English language acquisition and how nonsense words can help improve not only the ability to learn one language, but also improves the ability to become multilingual! It’s a weighty text, but it is interesting if you have the time to peruse it.
Phonological Awareness, or the ability to discern the sounds that make up words, is one of the first skills that children learn - hence why songs, rhymes, and words in general are such positive inclusions in storytime. Separating the sounds in words, as is done in songs and nonsense rhymes, helps to solidify the individual sounds that make up a language and promotes improved speech.
Many of the children that attend my storytimes (and yours, as well, I would guess) probably speak a language other than English or hear a language other than English on a regular basis at home. Breaking apart words into their component syllables through fun songs helps children to discern between the nuances that exist in words from any language. The more experienced children are at listening to the sounds of words, the clearer and more adept they will be at speaking not only English, but any language they might be picking up at home!