Thursday, February 09, 2006

Nursery rhymes – the cornerstone of learning

Baa, Baa - not such a black sheep!
Nusery rhymes have been around for a long time.
Possibly the oldest line from a nursery rhyme is Eena, meena, miny, mo, reputed to have been recited by the Druids thousands of years ago when they picked their victims for human sacrifice.
But whatever their purpose or attraction, nursery rhymes have survived the centuries and are one of the infant’s earliest encounters with the English language.
Walter de la Mare described nursery rhymes as:
‘tiny masterpieces of word craftsmanship – of the latest device in rhythm . . . not only crammed with vivid little scenes and objects and living creatures, but, however fantastic and nonsensical they may be, they are a direct shortcut into poetry itself.’
Nursery hymes teach rhyme and rhythm, and through repetition, they teach the alphabet.
They introduce the child to words, sentences and syntax with rich examples of figures of speech such as tongue twisters (How much wood could a woodchuck chuck) and alliteration, (Sing a Song of Sixpence).
And with an appreciation for words and verse, the child learns to read.
This, in turn, later provides the author with a market for both children’s and adults’ books.
Modern English of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been modified in line with changes in culture and society.
Since the Middle Ages there have been wars, plagues, and the Industrial Revolution.
Today, space exploration and DNA cloning are things of the past.
Yet despite this, the poetry of the nursery rhyme has survived and almost all of today’s great leaders, writers and philosophers (though they may not like to admit it) have cut their teeth on ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ and ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall’.
Photo of one of my melanian sheep with lamb - M. Muir


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