Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales
For Children
By Connie Goldin, MA, MFT ©2010, Mom to Madre

A while ago I read that families in England no longer think that Mother Goose is relevant. How can they say that! I’m sure your kids know what “fetch a pail of water” means. Or, that “Baa, baa, black sheep” has a similar tune to the Alphabet Song- “A, B, C, D. E, F…” I was sorry to read that “Ring around the Rosie” wasn’t an ancient reference to the times of the plague in Europe, when people were falling down right and left. (I was told this was the significance of this nursery favorite, years ago, and I still like the interpretation.) Instead, it supposedly is just a charming, child’s first rhyme and game. In fact, what the heck is a “nursery?” Isn’t that where plants are bought?

As you can see, there is still a lot to be learned and talked about in reading nursery rhymes with young children. They spark imagination and wonder about things like kings and queens, and blackbirds flying out of pies, and old ladies living in shoes. They help children learn about words that rhyme and hearing the rhythm of the lines. They are good for little children to march to and to fall down to on cue. They can add to a child’s vocabulary in a big way. The only time I use the word “fetch” is when I throw something for the dog to return, and she doesn’t know the word!

As the kids get older the fabulously scary Grimm’s Fairy Tales are spellbinding. I remember reading “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” many times to our oldest son when he was six. Fairy tales were one of the first things we read that didn’t have any illustrations or photos. It was a wonderful experience sharing those stories with our children. I do believe that my dramatic interpretations were spot-on!

For the littlest ones, reading the Disney versions is a great introduction without worry about the age-appropriateness of them. They were written for young children. The original Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales are a collection of Central European folktales written down by two German brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, at the beginning of the 1800’s, and are at times scary and cruel. It is best to read them first before reading them out loud to your kids. This way, you can choose which ones are good for young children.

Singing is a wonderful, joyful way to increase language skills. It is hard sometimes to hear the lyrics of songs, even for adults. It is a different kind of hearing. As a person who learned Spanish as an adult, hearing Spanish lyrics in songs is very challenging for me. I am always amazed how great kids are at this skill-especially teenagers. Music is a big part of our culture and history. All of the patriotic songs and songs about the nation’s history are an important part of being culturally literate. The Wee Sing series are wonderful and have little booklets that include the lyrics and written music to the songs on the CDs. Here is a link to the website: http://www.weesing.com/homepage.html.

Speaking, reading and writing are the beginnings of literacy. Children need to be spoken to, read to, sung to, and they need to snuggle up to a loved one and see the written words on a page. Broaden their world by sharing the children’s literature and music that has been enjoyed by many generations. If you belong to two cultures, teach your children about both cultures and each cultures’ treasured stories, songs and nursery rhymes. A child’s brain is an amazing thing-it has an enormous capacity to learn and absorb information. So, fill those great brains with wonderful things. Literacy and cultural literacy begin at home. The libraries in your town offer all sorts of nursery rhymes, songs, fairy tales, and children’s stories for you to enjoy with your children without any expense. Take your children to the library to collect these books and you will accomplish two missions in one. The children will become accustomed to using the library and they will learn so much from hearing you read to them and having books in their home. Happy reading!

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