Nursery rhymes "too old fashioned" for modern kids

Wed Oct 7, 2009 6:53am EDT
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By Simon Falush

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Britain's love affair with nursery rhymes is cooling, with parents telling a new survey that they are too old-fashioned to engage their children, a trend which educationalists say could damage reading skills.

Just 36 percent of parents regularly sing nursery rhymes to their children and almost a quarter say they never have, the poll of more than 2,500 people from charity Booktrust found.

But for those who still believe, the favorite has proved to be "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" ahead of "Incey Wincey Spider" and "Round and Round the Garden."

A third of young parents aged between 16-24 said nursery rhymes were too old-fashioned to interest their children, while 20 percent of this age-group thought they were not educational.

But academics dispute this view, pointing to the important role listening to nursery rhymes, and in many cases watching the accompanying actions, can have in language acquisition.

"The general public may see reading as a primarily visual process," said Roger Beard, professor of primary education at the Institute of Education at the University of London.

"But actually the ability to listen and discriminate between sounds in the language is an important predictor of children's later success in learning to read, and of course rhymes can play an important part in that."

Nursery rhymes are less popular among men than women in Britain, the survey found. Some 32 percent of men never recite nursery rhymes to their kids compared to 16 percent of women.   Continued...