As our culture rushes headlong into “progress”, it runs the risk of leaving behind certain things about the past that are very good things. One such area is in the education of the young–and more particularly, in our rich heritage of story, rhyme, and song. The classics that practically every child knew a generation or two ago are quickly disappearing—and along with them, the fundamentals of learning language, music, and culture.
The classic nursery rhymes, for example, taught the fundamentals of speech and expression in a fun, practical, and social activity, as opposed to an academic study of language, for which young children simply aren’t ready. At the same time, the rhymes also taught story and the rhythmic patterns that make up not only speech but song as well. Notice, for example, the musical triplet pattern in Hickory Dickory Dock. (1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1). The child will learn to feel and to use the triplet pattern long before he or she ever learns how to describe it in a sentence, or before discovering that it’s the same pattern that underlies certain dances like the waltz.
Meanwhile, the fables (such as Aesop’s) teach the lessons of life in story form, so that the children can learn about the dangers and rewards in this world before having experienced much of it for themselves in the real world. This helps them to recognize danger, to value wisdom, and to learn that problem solving can be a natural and normal part of life. Many today are afraid for their children to experience the fear and stress that story can bring, but by withholding such experiences, they also withhold that crucial early learning experience that has worked so well for a great many generations of humankind.
Kay Pelham is spearheading our SRS program. She has been teaching a Story, Rhyme, & Song class in person to 3-6 year olds and continues to develop the concept in very practical terms. While we can’t replicate that class experience online, we do hope in time to present a library of texts and recordings for nursery rhymes, fables, and children’s songs, in hopes of making these wonderful works widely available to the modern household.