Browsing the used book section at an annual flea market sponsored by a local order of nuns, I came upon one of those books I had to have. Lying there was a copy of “Favorite Nursery Songs” (copyright 1956), which I can remember having when I was a child.
The pictures are what brought me back to those summer days. As soon as I began to page through the book, I was taken back to afternoons spent swinging on the back porch, book in hand, singing those classics that I haven’t heard in years like:
“Row, Row, Row (your boat)”
“Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone?”
“Jack and Jill”
“Skip to My Lou”
“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
I pulled this book out the other day when a friend told me how she and her husband feel it is their duty to sing nursery rhymes with their grandchildren lest they all be forgotten. Singing those silly songs on road trips has been replaced with CD/DVD accessories that play music and even movies on attached screens.
Bernice Weissbourd, M.A. writes about singing to her first grandchildren on the Zero to Three website (www.zerotothree.org ):
“Later there was the specialness of rocking or walking my grandchild to sleep. I found myself softly singing the songs my grandmother sang to my mother, and my mother sang to me, and I sang to my children. Now, singing the same songs to theirs cemented a bond between us that is unique from others. Cradling my infant grandchild created in me a sense of wholeness, of circles completed, of ‘all's well’ in the universe. A powerful emotional bond tied me to this creature of the future. And so it is with grandparents.”
By singing lullabies and nursery rhymes with children, you are also giving them a leg up when they enter the world of academia, according to Sue Claus, children’s librarian at Northland Library in the North Hills section of Pittsburgh.
“Singing lullabies and rhymes with small children helps them to develop phonemic awareness,” Sue says, which is defined as a critical early literacy skill. Nursery rhymes and lullabies are often missing these days from the curriculum at preschools, according to Sue, which tend to focus more on academics at an earlier age.
Singing together can help reinforce skills the children will need as they progress through school. “Young children not only need to learn the meanings of words, but to be successful in the early stages of reading, children also have to learn to pay attention to the sounds of words,” according to Joan E. LeFebvre, writing on the website for the University of Wisconsin Extension (www.uwex.edu.).
The easiest forms of phonemic awareness are rhyming and alliteration, natural parts of songs for young children.
If you have young children in your life, spend some time introducing them to the classic music we enjoyed when we were children. Spend quality time sharing a past that should be cherished, not replaced. It may be hard to take their attention away from Beyonce singing on the box, but it will be worth it.
(Editor’s Note: I checked out some sources for children’s songs in case you may have forgotten some of the words. Wee Sing has a 25th Anniversary Celebration with a CD, cassette and book that includes many old-fashioned songs ready to be sung with your grandchildren like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “This Little Pig Went to Market,” “He’s Got the Whole World” and “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain.”)
By Teresa K. Flatley