Nursery rhymes have been passed down as part of our oral tradition for hundreds of years. When we teach our children to recite rhymes like Jack and Jill or Old King Cole, it is cool to think that the same rhymes may have been recited by our great-great-grand parents when they were children. It is part of our oral tradition and our culture. Whether you hail from Northern Michigan, central Florida or London, England these nursery rhymes and their history bind us together. And it is an interesting part of early literacy development!
Nursery rhymes have a long and somewhat colorful history. Old King Cole may date as far back as the 3rd century, and could refer to one of three Celtic kings who ruled Britons. The words Hey Diddle, Diddle can be found in the works of William Shakespeare. Little Jack Horner is thought to be the Steward to Richard Whiting (1461-1539) the Bishop of Glastonbury. The Steward managed the household and accounts. Rock a Bye Baby may have its origins when a young pilgrim boy observed Native American mothers rocking their babies asleep in a birch bark cradle suspended from a tree. Baa, Baa Black Sheep celebrated the wool industry in the nineteenth century, which was critical to the economy at that time.
So the next time your child recites: “Baa, baa, black sheep//have you any wool?//Yes, sir, yes, sir three bags full//One for the master, one for the dame// And one for the little boy//who lives down the lane” think of the history and imagine your grandparents reciting the same rhyme with pleasure, too!
To find out more about nursery rhymes, check out your local library. In Manistee County the Library is located at 95 Maple Street. They have a wonderful Children’s Room with many resources. So as Shakespeare said “Hey Diddle, Diddle!”