Regular readers of this blog will know that I always promote early reading behaviours – those that come long before any direct interaction with the marks on a page – whenever I can, and that these include the acquisition of language in the first place. And this book certainly fits into that.
Over 50 years ago when I first began my formal teacher ed studies I became fascinated with how children learn to speak, and this deepened when my son was born and so I delved into the research with enthusiasm. Not to bore you with the details, but it was evident that oral language development is inherent and that children will learn their mother tongue by listening to it, engaging with it, practising it, having fun with it and a belief that they will master it. Integral to that development is repetition, rhyme and rhythm so throughout the generations little ones have enjoyed rhymes and ditties that roll of the tongue and especially those that accompanied by body movement, particularly finger play.
And while there are hundreds of well-known rhymes that are passed through families, it is always interesting to have some new ones and this book offers 16 of those, complete with imaginative illustrations and instructions for actions. They cover the activities of a child’s day and play, encouraging movement and imagination while being short and simple enough for the child to learn them quickly so they can join in enthusiastically.
Written by someone who has been teaching music to nursery-aged children for decades, the book was one of just five shortlisted for the UK Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award (won by Michael Rosen for On the Move: Poems about Migration) and although it didn’t win, the fact that rhymes for this age group were acknowledged is significant. Recognition that this is a vital part of children’s language development will add weight to the writing and publishing of quality works for this age group.
You can share Jane’s presentations of some of the rhymes here.
Round and Round the Garden: A First Book of Nursery Rhymes
Round and Round the Garden: A First Book of Nursery Rhymes
64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99
Nursery rhymes – those jingles, riddles, tongue-trippers, finger games, lullabies and prayers that we can still recall from our own childhood – are the heritage of centuries of oral tradition as they were passed from one generation to the next down through the ages. From the research of Iona and Peter Opie , pioneers in the study of childhood culture, play and literature, it is evident that as well as the oral retelling, nursery rhymes have been in printed format since the reign of England’s George II in the mid-1700s meaning that many more have survived than otherwise might have.
So, as childhood entertainment becomes so much more diverse in both culture and format this collection of 60 of the more well-known rhymes has an important place in not only preserving this form of children’s literature from the past but also in introducing our youngest to common chants that it is presumed they know. How many times have they heard, “Rain, rain go away” recently, the drought being all but a memory? And while there is also a doorway into times past as many spring from people or events or yesteryear – who has actually seen a child running through the town in a nightgown and carrying a candlestick? – they can also become a springboard to a whole range of investigations. For example, “The Old Woman who lived in a Shoe” creates opportunities to explore mathematics; “Humpty Dumpty” is a great introduction to investigate the things that come from eggs; “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” can take them to the stars and back; and Little Miss Muffet opens up the world of spiders and other mini-beasts Below is a table of contents I prepared for a book I was going to write called Rhyme and Reason which would have introduced littlies to information literacy through nursery rhymes.
What are little boys made of?
The child as a person
The old woman in a shoe
The family and the class
Boys and girls come out to play
Games and activities
Little Miss Muffet; Incy Wincy Spider
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; The man in the moon; Hey Diddle Diddle
Day & Night; Space
Routines, Days of the Week
Hickory Dickory Dock
Time , Mice
Sing a song of sixpence
Money & Budgeting
Three Little Kittens
One, two three four five; One, two, buckle my shoe
Hot Cross Buns
The crooked little man
Houses and homes
It’s raining it’s pouring; Whether the weather be fine; I hear thunder
Six little mice sat down to spin
Staying safe; Protective behaviours
Mary had a little lamb
School, On the Farm
Wee Willie Winkie; Starlight star bright
Queen of Hearts
Honesty, Taking responsibility
Thirty days hath September
Baa Baa Black Sheep/ Little Boy Blue
Hickety Pickety my black hen
The secret life of eggs
Jack and Jill
The importance of water
Three Blind Mice
Jobs and careers
Little Boy Blue
On the Farm
Many of these rhymes are in this collection and they are illustrated in a style reminiscent of times gone by, giving the whole that olde-world feeling that many of us associate with the collections that we had in the past. And with some imagination, they could form the basis of a year’s work for our youngest readers either at school or at home!
My research for Rhyme and Reason led me down many fascinating paths, particularly the origins of and history associated with these rhymes but it was more difficult to find illustrated collections. I am thrilled to be able to add this to the tiny collection I was able to acquire. May there be more.
Children learn their mother tongue by listening to it, playing with it and sharing it and hence rhymes like those in this book have endured over generations because of the rhythm and repetition than encourages them to engage all their senses. Added to that there is often the bonus experience of sitting on the lap of a loved someone and sharing something that goes beyond the exchange of sounds and syllables.
There would be few young children who are not familiar with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and so to have this little critter wandering in and out of the pages of this book, illustrated in Carle’s distinctive style and palette will have surefire appeal. Add to that, the fun of lifting the flaps to discover what is underneath and all in all this is a wonderful addition to the libraries of our youngest readers.
Five rhymes feature – “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and “The Wheels on the Bus.” – carefully chosen because each focuses on something the little one can relate to and by using the technique of not disclosing the final line until the flap is lifted, there is plenty of opportunity for the child to predict what might be uncovered, thereby not only showing off their existing knowledge but also having power over the print!
Ideal for those who know the VHC already but for those who don’t, it opens up a whole new reading experience as they discover his adventures! There’s a reason the little character has endured since 1969!