Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.
And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.
A mother sits and rocks her baby to sleep. She sings quietly. She wants the baby to fall asleep. She sings this song about a cradle – a small bed for a baby:
Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the branch breaks, the cradle will fall.
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
Click here to follow along on YouTube
Rock-a-bye Baby is a rhyming song from England. The sentences rhyme – they end with the same sounds like ‘fall’ and ‘all’. Rhyming songs and poems are very popular all around the world. Parents often sing them to young children. And children sing them in nursery school – when they are only three or four years old. Today’s Spotlight is on nursery rhymes around the world.
Most countries have nursery rhymes. People sing nursery rhymes like a song. Or sometimes they say nursery rhymes like a poem. Nursery rhymes are fun for both adults and children. But nursery rhymes also have other purposes.
There are different kinds of nursery rhymes. Some nursery rhymes are for helping a child to fall asleep. “Rock-a-bye Baby” is one of these. Other nursery rhymes are educational. They teach children about cultural traditions or about good behavior. Some nursery rhymes are games – they include movements. The children must do these movements with their hands or bodies.
Let’s listen to some different kinds of nursery rhymes from around the world. This first nursery rhyme is from Uganda in East Africa:
Keep keep keep your health
Eat good food!
Milk and eggs, fish and beans
Are excellent for you.
Comb comb comb your hair
Do not forget your teeth!
Brush brush brush your teeth
Clean up all those germs!
This nursery rhyme teaches children about healthy food. And it teaches children to take care of their bodies. Because it has rhyming sounds, this song is easy to remember! Parents and teachers often use songs to teach lessons. Songs can help children to remember important things – like cleaning their teeth.
The next nursery rhyme also uses rhyming to teach. This poem is from China. It teaches about the traditional customs of a very important Chinese holiday. It is called ‘Chinese New Year’:
You will find whenever the New Year comes
the Kitchen God will want some plums.
The girls will want some flowers new;
The boys will want firecrackers, too.
A new soft hat will please Papa
And a sugar cake for dear Mama.
This nursery rhyme teaches children about the special customs of the Chinese New Year holiday. For example, families celebrate Chinese New Year with special food. The nursery rhyme also teaches children to share with their family members. By repeating this rhyme, children will remember their traditional customs.
Many cultures also have nursery rhymes to teach children about right and wrong actions. Here is a nursery rhyme from Thailand. It is named after a large fruit. The jackfruit has a hard, green skin. But inside, it has soft, yellow fruit around big seeds:
Jum-Jee Jackfruit Seed
Those who have done good deeds
Can eat all the food.
Those who tell lies
Must eat old dead dog!
This nursery rhyme teaches children to tell the truth. It explains that people who tell the truth will get good things. But people who do not tell the truth will not get good things.
There are two more interesting things about this nursery rhyme. One is that it uses words that are not real! The beginning words – “Jum-Jee” – do not mean anything. These are just words that sound fun. They rhyme to make the song sound good. Many nursery rhymes have these kinds of words in them.
The Jum-Jee nursery rhyme is also a game. While the children sing it, they sit in a circle. They all put their hands into the middle. Then, one child counts the other children’s fingers while they sing together. When the song is finished, the child stops counting. The person with the finger last counted must pull their hand away. The song continues until only one child has a hand left in the middle of the circle.
Many other nursery rhymes can also be used for games. Some have special motions for the children to do. They sing and move parts of their bodies at the same time. Listen to this nursery rhyme from Switzerland in Europe. It is a rhyme about a child named Joggeli riding a horse. Imagine how children would move while saying it.
Joggeli, can you ride?
Yes, yes, yes.
Have you got one leg each side?
Yes, yes, yes.
Did you give the horse some hay?
Yes, yes, yes.
Did you water it today?
Nay, nay, nay.
So let’s ride to town
And go three times around.
But then the horse starts bucking
And Joggeli falls down down down.
Nursery rhymes can teach many things! They can teach children about being healthy and behaving well. They also teach about traditional culture. Nursery rhymes often use language in a fun way. And they can be used for movements or games. But one of the most important things about nursery rhymes is that they help create relationships.
Nursery rhymes help children create friendships with each other. They help teachers to give good lessons. And they also help create closeness between a child and her parent. Nursery rhymes are a way for parents to teach important lessons.
Lastly, parents use nursery rhymes to put their children to sleep – like the first rhyme we heard. The last nursery rhyme is also a song from a parent to his child. The child is named Iro. This rhyme is from the Mina language of Benin, in West Africa. It shows the most important lesson that a parent can teach a child: that her mother and father love her.
My Iro, what am I going to give you?
My Iro, what am I going to give you?
I have nothing to give you
I am going to pray for you.
Your life will be happy for all time.
What is your favorite nursery rhyme? Does your culture teach any good lessons with children’s songs? You can leave your comments on our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Nursery Rhymes Around the World’.
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What is your favorite nursery rhyme? Did your parents sing nursery rhymes to you?
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