'You Would Hear More Violence If You Listened to an Hour of Nursery Rhymes Than If You Watched TV for an Hour'

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Byline: By Jenny Rees Western Mail

Pulp FICTION-themed nursery rhymes could be a thing of the past with a move to pen more gentle rhymes for young children.

Children should sing rhymes more relevant to the new millennium - rather than singing about lethal plagues and hurling old men down stairs, according to a children's television channel which is behind the initiative.

Pre-school channel Nick Jr has launched a competition to write new rhymes, with the best three to be made into a short animation to be screened later this year.

The competition has already received the backing of TV presenter Lorraine Kelly and children's author Michael Rosen.

Violent stories such as a baby falling from a tree branch (Rock-a Bye Baby), a double hill climbing accident (Jack and Jill) and thistle pricking (Simple Simon) could be phased out for more relevant nursery rhymes depicting Beckham's football skills, or even the Welsh Grand Slam victory.

Nursery rhymes were used to parody the royal and political events of the day. These nursery rhymes were passed on from generation to generation as a way of learning about British history and soon became a national pastime. A recent report, however, has revealed that there is 10 times more violence in nursery rhymes than on afternoon and evening television.

Dr Adam Fox of St Mary's Hospital, Paddington said, 'You would hear more violence if you listened to an hour of nursery rhymes than if you watched television for an hour before 9pm on an average day.'

Reeta Bhatiani, spokesperson for Nick Jr, said, 'Nursery rhymes have always played a pivotal role in child development and are a fun way to play with words and join in with songs and actions. The 'Time for a New Rhyme' initiative will give everyone across Britain the opportunity to contribute to history by creating a legacy of nursery rhymes for future generations so that they too can learn about their country's history in a fun and lasting way.'

However, Eileen Merriman, senior lecturer at Trinity College, Carmarthen's early years education department, said the violent rhymes do have their merits.

'They could actually prove to be wonderful talking points for children in circle time, where children come together to chat,' said Mrs Merriman.

'This could raise the issue of should children behave like this, and is it right to hurt or steal from each other? Then perhaps children could themselves suggest better words for existing rhymes to get them to think for themselves.'

Menna Elfyn, former children's laureate, agreed that there is much we can still gain from the older nursery rhymes.

'It's always good for us to be aware of the hidden meaning that nursery rhymes have,' she said.

Mrs Elfyn, 54, from Llandysul, wrote Hands Off in 1997 for Save the Children and Welsh Women's Aid, after researching violent behaviour for three years. …