Bashir Ahmad Dar
English has become an effective tool which connects people from different corners of the world. It has become the language of masses and is currently the second most common spoken language in the world.
Different countries around world have included it in their school and university syllabi. Its importance is such that if a person’s aspires to gain excellence in professional as well as personal life, studying English can do it for him.
If he plans to travel the world, English can make his journey easy. In-fact, in the modern era it is almost impossible to sit in competition with the world without knowing this language. So it is wise that we expose our young generation to this language at a very tender age, since this age is considered most feasible for learning any language.
One pleasurable way in which we can expose our children to English is through Rhymes, since they are rhymed and can be beautifully sung and played, something which is melodic to a young ear.
Wikipedia defines rhymes as, “A repetition of similar sounds in the final stressed syllable and any following syllables of two or more words. A rhyme is a tool utilizing repeating patterns that bring rhythm or musicality to poem.”
It is the repetition of similar sounds which develop the vocal muscles in our kids. Singing rhymes is an important tool for engaging our kids at school. It enriches their fluency and word treasure and thus boosts confidence in them.
Experts in Literacy and Child development say that those kids who at the age of four know at least eight rhymes by heart are usually among the best readers and spellers in class by the time they are eight years old.
Nursery rhymes not only increase vocabulary but also expand imaginative power and promote creativity in our kids. For example When we sing the rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle little star” to our preschool or nursery kid, in his imagination he starts to fly among stars and paints the picture of a mini twinkling star in his mind.
Repetition of rhymes is good for brain development. Since the lines in the rhymes follow a definite pattern so they are easily memorized by kids. Memorizing things enhance memory capabilities. Many rhymes contain “acting words” in them and involve physical movement and finger-plays on the part of children, thus, develop effective motor skills in them.
Teaching children through rhyme recitation serve a multi-pronged purpose. Besides, English some simple concepts of other subjects like Maths, Science etc can be taught too. For example, the following nursery rhyme is often recommended to teach counting to a new comer nursery kid.
‘One, two, three, four, five,
Once I caught a fish alive
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten
Then I let him go again
Why did you let him go?
Because he bit my finger so
Which finger did it bite?
This little finger on my right’
Likewise historical events are engraved in our rhymes which can be memorized by our nursery kids. For example “Ba Ba Black sheep” is thought to be either about medieval English tax of 1275 or European slave trade, the later being more appropriate since black people were forced into slavery during medieval times in Europe.
Similarly the Rhyme, “Ring around the Rosie” is supposedly a recounting of effects of a deadly plague which shook the world during the closing decade of 18th century or the initial decade of 19th century.
Values can also be inculcated in children through use of rhymes. The famous rhyme entitled “Manners” is a glaring example before us. The rhymes like “The Mulberry Bush” and “Brush, Brush, Brush” are effective in teaching the hygienic habits to our children. The four lines long rhyme by Paolo Yang on forests holds human greed responsible for deforestation and an urgency of protecting our forests.
Dear teachers and parents, believe me or not, a child’s early knowledge of nursery rhymes have an incredible influence on his linguistic progress later on. But we have to be highly selective in choosing rhymes for our children. The rhymes should be ones with catchy melodies and lyrics. They should be entertaining and meaningful.
(The author is a teacher by profession and contributes to Kashmir Vision regularly)