From nursery rhymes to childlore: orality and ideology

Catalina Millán Scheiding


When approaching nursery rhymes, they appear as a concrete, limited and cohesive collection shared by all English-speaking countries packaged in colorful books or fun, animated Youtube channels. Yet they have truly been something that was alive: a group of productions that changed and increased throughout time, drawn from and shared with different languages and cultures, accommodated or purged, considered to hide secret meanings and, subsequently, fossilized in print. They pre-date literary culture although, since society has become literary, nursery rhymes have been generally approached either from the folkloric ethnography field through a collection and analysis of rhymes, their variations and their influences; or as a means to an end, taking into account their possible usage in phonological awareness, literacy and first and second language acquisition. Few have intended to answer what exactly nursery rhymes are, how they work and why it is that they have existed for so long. Understanding nursery rhymes offers essential knowledge of their position in children’s literature, children’s agency and the shared discourse between adults and children. It also illustrates how the relationship between adults, infants, communication and connection has preserved its essential features.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680