Poetry Friday: My Village – Rhymes from Around the World

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My Village: Rhymes from Around the World

As any children’s librarian or early literacy specialist will tell you, nursery rhymes can play an incredibly powerful role in the development of early literacy skills in young children:

There’s a reason we learn nursery rhymes as young children. They help us develop an ear for our language. Rhyme and rhythm highlight the sounds and syllables in words. And understanding sounds and syllables helps kids learn to read! – Reading Rockets

My Village collects, translates and illustrates twenty-two nursery rhymes from around the world to create a beautiful, diverse celebration poetry for young children. Countries represented in this collection include China, Norway, Jamaica, Fiji, Iran, Germany and more, for an inspiring glimpse into childhood traditions from cultures near and far.

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As former children’s laureate and beloved writer Michael Rosen explains in his introduction;

What this leaves us with is the rhymes itself…they are full of verbal fun and absurdity which matches the impossible deeds we often read about. If we learn them when we’re very young, they can become our companions for life.

There’s a beautiful variety of subjects and styles in this collection, but there are a few common themes that appear again and again – family, friends, food, games and animals. Through these poems we’re reminded of the common bonds that connect us all, regardless of our culture, language or home country.

Beyond supporting early literacy, nursery rhymes are a timeless means of transmitting cultural knowledge across generations:

Nursery rhymes preserve a culture that spans generations, providing something in common among parents, grandparents and kids—and also between people who do not know each other. Seth Lerer, Humanities Professor at the University of California San Diego and expert in the history of children’s literature, says that reading nursery rhymes to kids is, in part, “to participate in a long tradition … it’s a shared ritual, there’s almost a religious quality to it.” – PBS Parents

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Mique Moriuchi‘s beautiful, rustic papercut collage illustrations add a childlike warmth and wonder to the little poems. Each spread brims with colour,  joy and life, as happy children share their poems and their culture.

Seeing as my blog is called Raincity Librarian, and I do live in the rainy, rainy Pacific Northwest, I simply couldn’t resist sharing this Norwegian poem:

Rain, rain,

Pattering touch,

Rain, rain,

Clattering rain.

Rain, rain,

Little or much,

Rain, rain,

Welcome its touch.

I do wish the language of each poem was identified – you can probably safely assume that the poem from Germany is in German, but what about the poem from India? There are thousands of different languages spoken across the subcontinent. This goes for the poem from Australia as well – the original is presumably in an aboriginal language, but I’m sure there is more than one language/dialect spoken in the country. There is an acknowledgements section at the back of the book, but it would be interesting to know a little bit more about each poem – where it comes from, how old it is thought to be, and perhaps whether it is typically sung or spoken.

Still, this is a wonderful collection of children’s poetry from around the world, and joyfully introduces readers to rhymes as familiar to children in other countries as “Twinkle twinkle little star” is to the children in my story time programs. Take a trip around the world through poetry!