Have Nursery Rhymes Lo Ost Their Reason? Nursery Rhymes Are Vital to a Child's Development, but Research Suggests They're Dying out. Laura Davis Reports

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Byline: Laura Davis

USUALLY, when Humpty Dumpty crashes to the floor as a pile of broken eggshell, he's able to jump back up on his wall again ready for the next recital.

Jack's and Jill's bumps and bruises mend themselves and the three blind mice find their tails magically restored in preparation for the next time their nursery rhymes are repeated.

Sadly, though, there could come a day when Humpty is left where he falls and the pail-carrying siblings spent eternity daubing their wounds with vinegar and brown paper.

Learning these poems in early years is crucial to our development, according to literacy experts.

Yet the majority of parents no longer read them to their children because they are "too old-fashioned".

Research released earlier this month revealed that nearly twothirds of mums and dads do not regularly share nursery rhymes with their children and almost a quarter have never done so.

"Repeating nursery rhymes, songs and storytelling is a very basic thing to do, but brings about so many positive benefits," says Irene Mandlekow, coordinator of the Bookstart early years for Liverpool City Council.

"They help develop pre-school children's communication, speech and language development as well as being pure fun to share with your children."

Under-fives who are familiar with nursery rhymes are likely to have a head start when it comes to starting school, adds Irene.

"It's not all about learning to read, but about sharing and enjoying books," she says. "It's laying the foundations for language skills and helps with concentration levels and being able to sit and listen.

"It also develops their creativity and imagination, and helps parents bond with their children."

Child literacy is considered hugely important in development of child confidence and combating potential future criminal behaviour.

According to a 1998 report by the Literacy Trust, 70% of pupils permanently excluded from school have difficulties in basic literacy skills.

A total 25% of young offenders are said to have reading skills below those of the average sevenyear-old, while 60% of the prison population are said to have difficulties in basic literacy skills.

Bookstart is tackling this problem by encouraging all parents and carers to enjoy books with their children from as early an age as possible.

The national scheme aims to provide a free pack of books to every baby in the UK, given to them by their health visitor.

Two further packs are provided to toddlers aged between 18-30 months and to three to four-yearolds.

Parents and carers can also obtain all three packs from their local library.

Interestingly, when people in Liverpool were asked to name their favourite nursery rhyme, many of those stated, such as The Wheels on the Bus, were songs rather than nursery rhymes in the traditional sense.

The city's most popular was the same as the nation's - Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, based on early 19th-century English poem The Star, by Jane Taylor.

The original, which had five verses, was published in the book Rhymes for the Nursery in 1806.

Nationally, only 52% of men questioned could recite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, compared to 83% of women.

"It can be difficult for adults to remember them from their own childhoods, but they can find books of nursery rhymes in the local libraries and these days you can get CDs of them, too," says Irene. …