The Importance of Kids Learning Nursery Rhymes
Did you know?
Do you know what’s one of the best predictors of how well a kindergartner will learn to read? It’s if he knows his nursery rhymes.
Jack and Jill went up the hill.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Jack Sprat would eat no fat. His wife would eat no lean.
All those nonsensical verses from your childhood really do matter. They matter, because they rhyme. Rhyming is fun. And it’s a very important part of reading success.
Why rhyming is important
1. Rhyming teaches children how language works. It helps them notice and work with the sounds within words.
2. Rhymes help children experience the rhythm of language. As they recite nursery rhymes they learn to speak with animated voices. Someday they’ll read with expression, too.
3. When children are familiar with a nursery rhyme or rhyming book, they learn to anticipate the rhyming word. This prepares them to make predictions when they read, another important reading skill.
4. Rhyming is important for writing, too. It can help children understand that words that share common sounds often share common letters. For example, the rhyming words cat and bat both end with –at.
5. When listening to rhyming songs and poems children create a mental picture, expanding the imagination.
6. Because rhyming is fun, it adds joy to the sometimes daunting task of learning to read.
In her book, Reading Magic, acclaimed Australian author, Mem Fox states that “Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”
Paediatric Speech Pathologist and literacy specialist Rebecca King from Kids First Children’s Services in Sydney agrees. She says that “international research has shown that children who learn nursery rhymes and songs reap numerous language, learning and social rewards.”
“Studies show that children learn more in their first eight years than at any other stage in their lives. Songs and nursery rhymes give kids the chance to develop the language and learning foundations needed for good reading, writing and literacy skills later on.”
Rebecca says that rhyme is important in developing phonemic [hearing] awareness in children.
“I support many primary school aged children who have literacy problems because, as preschoolers, they missed out on receiving the oral support that nursery rhymes offer. Nursery rhymes are part of kids’ pre-literacy skills and their value to children’s cognitive development cannot be under-estimated.”
Along with building memory, articulation and understanding of concepts, Rebecca says that nursery rhymes help children to paint pictures in their heads.
“In this age of TV, video games and handheld digital devices, the importance of building kids’ imaginative skills has never been more critical.”
“A parent or teacher who tells stories, recites rhymes and sings songs helps kids to develop creativity and this is a very powerful learning tool.
Many children’s later literacy problems could be averted if parents simply took the time to read and talk with children from birth so that the child gains a solid oral language base.”
Rebecca says children gain many other benefits when they learn nursery rhymes.
“Learning nursery rhymes by heart helps children to engage in social routines that encourage skills like turn-taking and listening, which are vital for the development of conversation.”
Children who enjoy nursery rhymes also learn to predict and anticipate what’s coming next.
“Although nursery rhymes like Three Blind Mice can be a bit gruesome if we really think about their storylines, the reality is that Jack and Jill who go up the hill and Humpty Dumpty who falls off a wall give kids great opportunities to not only develop their vocabulary, but also build memory and comprehension.”
“An extra benefit of these simple songs is that they teach children how to articulate words, modulate their voices and enunciate clearly”
According to Rebecca, before children learn to read, they need to understand spoken language.
“Concepts like bigger, smaller, behind, in front, first and last have relevance in all areas of learning. The words used in nursery rhymes and songs help a child develop language comprehension because they teach kids to associate key words with people, objects and events in their daily lives”
Sing to your children
When you sing nursery rhymes to your children, you may be telling the same poems and tales that, in some form, were told by firelight from parents to their children centuries ago, perhaps even as far back as the Middle Ages. Determining the origins of these famous tales before they were written down is impossible, but many have made guesses about their early roots. “Ring Around the Rosy” may refer to the swollen cysts that afflicted the sick during the Black Death. You might be recalling an ancient Welsh king in “Old King Cole” who drowned in a swamp 1700 years ago, and in “Little Miss Muffet” the daughter of a bug expert in Shakespearean England, or a queen beheaded for her Catholic faith in “Mary Mary Quite Contrary.” These stories have undergone so many changes over the centuries that these meanings –if they did originate in these long-ago dark circumstances –are mostly obscured.
“Many of these songs were not originally for children,” says Kay Vandergrift, Professor Emerita of Children’s Literature at Rutgers University. Most of these songs were part of an oral-based society that relayed news, spread coded rumors about authority figures, and worked out its moral dilemmas (for kids and adults) in rhyme and song. And existing nonsense rhymes that were part of this oral tradition could be used or adapted to make references to current events. It was in the nineteenth century, when Victorian society sentimentalized childhood and romanticized “quaint” times from the past, that most nursery rhymes were written down and presented as for children only.
How are these poems—inhabited by kings, queens and peasants of a rural past predating electricity, television and computers—still relevant to twenty-first-century kids and parents? If we are so far removed from the world that hatched these rhymes, why should we still read them? Some of the reasons people sang nursery rhymes to each other in the past remain good reasons to do so today.
Nursery rhymes preserve a culture that spans generations, providing something in common among parents, grandparents and kids—and also between people who do not know each other. Seth Lerer, Humanities Professor at the University of California San Diego and expert in the history of children’s literature, says that reading nursery rhymes to kids is, in part, "to participate in a long tradition … it’s a shared ritual, there’s almost a religious quality to it.” One should not let any supposed deeper meanings or origins to nursery rhymes obscure their true value: the joy of a child’s discovery of an old, shared language.
CLASSIC NURSERY RHYMES TOLD IN THE ZAPPLE WAY! Cinderella, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Three Killer Mice, The Three Little Pigs, Humpty Dumpty & Jack and Jill!
Rhymes about a killer slug, a genius slug, a murdered slug, how best to eat a slug and much, much more including a rhyme about a sarcastic dog!
The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book
The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book contains 800 nursery rhymes and ditties which are the heritage of our oral tradition. All the well-known rhymes are included as well as many rare ones. Special sections are devoted to lullabies and dandling rhymes, toe rhymes, catches, charms, traditional street cries, riddle verses, nursery maxims, and humorous ballads.
My Very First Mother Goose (Mother Goose Series)
To a small child, words are magical. And the most magical of all are the beloved, venerable words of Mother Goose. Now folklorist Iona Opie has gathered more than sixty treasured rhymes in their most perfect, honest form. From "Hey Diddle, Diddle" and "Pat-a-Cake" to "Little Jack Horner" and "Pussycat, Pussycat," these are familiar verses that have been passed from parent
The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes
Here is a brand new edition of the classic anthology of nursery rhymes--over 500 rhymes, songs, nonsense jingles, and lullabies traditionally handed down to young children. Included are all of your favorites, ranging from "Yankee Doodle Came to Town" and "A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go" to "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep," Jack and Jill" and "Old Mother Hubbard.”
Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose
by Scott Gustafson (Goodreads Author) (Illustrations)
From nonsense to lessons learned, these 45 rhymes include the very well known (Itsy Bitsy Spider) and the somewhat familiar (Hickety, Pickety, My Black Hen). The truly fantastic pictures speak more than a thousand words as artist Scott Gustafson riffs in paint on themes present and imagined in each verse.
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