The importance of sharing Nursery Rhymes

In September of this year Otter-Barry Books published an incredible collection of Nursery Rhymes that have an important message behind their stunning existence, and that is to promote them to the latest generation of parents and children alike. Who else but Jackie Morris in her talents of both an author and illustrator could do this justice.

Beginning with an introduction from Jackie, who explains her concerns that Nursery Rhymes will be forgotten in the modern world in which we live – one full of technology and gadgets, and the relevance of childhood rhymes that have been passed down and told for centuries.

Reading with children is one of the best ways to spend time together, close and intimate in the sharing of a book. It is my hope that this book will become a treasured part of childhood, keeping the memory of these rhymes alive for future generations”

For me, this is the most poignant part of Jackie’s message. As a parent I have enjoyed reading to my children from a young age and this all began with nursery rhymes, which in turn became embedded into activities we did together such as Pat-A-Cake Pat-A-Cake, and later Ring-a-ring-a-roses, and so many more besides. My children are keen readers that actively choose to read for pleasure, something that always makes me so incredibly happy and proud. Most recently my fifteen year old came home from school and begun half term break by finishing a book he had enjoyed immensely, and then selecting his next read from the bookcase, taking it to bed.

As a librarian and active member of both the school community I work within and the world of children’s literature through reviewing and blogging I have come to understand a completely different situation to that within my home, and it is more often the case with each year that passes, and new reception classes begin at schools. Sadly, I refer to that of homes that do not share nursery rhymes with younger children, and that is what I wanted to focus on with this blog post because of course nursery rhymes can be shared irrespective of age, but I firmly believe that small children will begin their enjoyment of books and stories if they are introduced to nursery rhymes first, and that their imaginations are fired up through each and every verse.

Nursery Rhymes have become a frequently requested resource from the primary school library that I work in, primarily because children have no knowledge of them. To have knowledge of these rhymes enables children to take part in activities, and so many possibilities that they are otherwise unfamiliar with. That makes me sad, especially because I have such fond memories with friends when I was little, retelling one another the rhymes we had learnt over and over again whilst playing relevant and imaginative playground games.

This collection of rhymes has all the ‘classics’ that used to be heard so often, from one generation to the next, and the next. My favourites that I will always cherish, and one day share with my grandchildren (as my grandparents did with me) are –

  • Jack Be Nimble
  • Hickory, Dickory, Dock
  • Lavender’s Blue
  • There Was an Old Woman
  • How Many Miles to Babylon?
  • Pop! Goes the Weasel
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence
  • Pussy cat, Pussy cat
  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
  • To Market, To Market
  • Little Bo-Peep
  • Hey Diddle, Diddle

Just looking at this book has reminded me of so many precious memories, including those with my nanny sharing her favourite Lavender’s Blue, but it has also highlighted those rhymes I never knew and given me the opportunity to share them with my children. This collection is accompanied by breathtakingly beautiful illustrations that are iconically Jackie Morris through to the end. Each being a watercolour painting only serves to draw you in deeper to each and every page that is adorned with these quality illustrations, giving your imagination everything it needs and more to conjure up thoughts to accompany each verse.

If I had to choose a favourite illustration – which is incredibly difficult given how gorgeous all of them are – I think I am drawn to Sing a Song of Sixpence. A double page spread that depicts everything relating to the rhyme, your eye wanders across the two pages taking in everything from the laundry blowing on the washing line to the King up in the tower. As I share this book with others I know my favourite will change depending on who else is enjoying the content and the memories we create along the way.

Nursery Rhymes are incredibly important, carrying previous generations within each and every line, and forgetting these cleverly written rhymes only serves to forget those that once spoke the words within them. just as we should be telling babies how ‘this little piggy went to market, and this little piggy stayed at home’ we should be seeking moments to incorporate other ‘traditional’ rhymes with children from that stage of development and many years to come. Make memories as you enjoy them, teaching the next generation as you go, and do so knowing that your ancestors walk with you through every whispered word.

The Jackie Morris Book of Classic Nursery Rhymes was published on 10th September 2020 by Barry-Otter Books in stunning Hardback (RRP £15), and is the perfect gift for new parents, christmas, birthdays, school libraries, classrooms, and every other opportunity that allows for something precious to be shared.

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