It was entirely too morbid, filled with cruel-hearted characters and unhappy endings.
Certainly these tales weren't meant for the smallest eyes and ears?
Take, for example, Tom Tom The Piper's Son [click on the link to read the text if you can't make it out below]. A boy steals a pig. He is beat for it and ends up crying in anguish through the street.
And then there's Georgie Porgie - the confused and disrespectful little boy who kisses all the girls and makes them cry.
And I can't even bring myself to read Goosey Goosey Gander out loud. It's so HORRIBLE. The author meets an old man who won't say his prayers so he throws him down the stairs! What?!?
And that's just for starters.
Don't get me wrong - I don't want my kids to be ignorant of these supposedly "classic" stories. But when I actually have to SKIP entire pages because of the negative lessons they are teaching, it's just not worth it. Maybe we'll revisit them when my girls are...ahem...out of the "nursery."
I'M CURIOUS. Do you read your children nursery rhymes? If so, do you discuss the meanings? What are your favorite (or least favorite) nursery rhymes?
I think I remember reading about the Hans Christian Anderson and old German fairytales (shock headed peter) and the like. The idea was that these tales were ways to warn children about the world, and the very real fact that there is evil out there, in more digestible formats. I.e., evil stepmothers, and poison apples. Of course, it ends up always portraying beauty within = beauty on the outside, which is rubbish. But times were different, and I think children were viewed as more resilient then. Considering most 8--year-olds worked a full day, it's very different from our approach today. Maybe not so much for a 2 year old, but I don't mind a little scaryness for a 4 year old... As long as they know they are ultimately safe.
Man, I completely disagree. One of the dads from our parenting group has the same perspective but in his case the offending book is the Bible. He "sanitizes" or just doesn't read many of the stories to his kids. David and Goliath? Too violent. And don't get him started on the crucifixion.
I think I might have to blog about this because I have too much to write.
I noticed that these were negative as a kid and changed the words to many of them that I forgot the orginal veruses. Like Rockabye baby.... The ending to mine is that the cradle and baby fall and mommy catches them both to break their fall.
My mom read lots of nursery rhymes to us when we were kids. I see why they could be concerning, but I still read them to Levi. We never took them seriously as children, and we could tell that my mother didn't either. In recent years my mom and I have talked about fairy tales and nursery rhymes and their appropriateness. She saw them as ways for us to deal with possible fears and other issues in a safe environment. It was always made clear to us that books weren't real. And, honestly, most of it went over our heads anyway. I'm only just now "getting" what many of those rhymes and stories are saying.
I agree - I don't like the traditional nursery tales. What Holly said is true - many of them have hidden political meanings and nothing to do with children. I won't be reading them to my child either. I also plan to read the books he will read beforehand, even as he gets to be a pre-teenager. I can't believe some of the children's fiction books I read - not appropriate and not what I want filling my child's head!
Wow! So true!
I have never really been into nursery stories. So much so I don't even have a nursery book at home! We do have Aesop's fables which my son LOVES and learns a lot from. Good talks after reading.
When you think about classic fairytales, there is also plenty of scary things. Like Red Riding Hood. so violent.
I have given away all our nursery rhyme books. I had them read to me as a kid and was shocked. When I spoke to my mother, she told me she always edited them and changed the words. :)
When I went to read them to my kids, I was shocked. Three Blind Mice? The words are terrible.
Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife...
Now that my daughter knows how to read, I physically got rid of the nursery rhyme books.
I've always known that there were historical and political meanings behind these nursery rhymes, but now I'm VERY curious about finding them out! I'm definitely not ready to throw our classic books out, maybe sit on the shelf until I can explain them, but not get rid of them! I'd be bummed if someone were to say they were throwing out their Bible because there were too many stories of war, murder, adultery, etc. in it. I read an awesome book called, "Tending the Heart of Virtue, How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination" by Vigen Guroian, that opened my eyes to the wonderful stories out there that (often times) Disney (and others) have changed for the worse! Thanks for the reminder I've got some reading to do!
I think, sometimes, the classics are the worst! Look at the classic TV programing for children --- a lot of those cartoons have smoking and guns and sexualizing of women in them.
I threw out a bunch of our nursery rhyme books as well. I was a bit disturbed and hated having to skip every other page because of the dark nature of the rhyme. Take the rhyme "Oranges and Lemons" for example:
Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney
I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow
Here comes a candle to light you to bed
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Wow, just want I want to read to my daughter at night. Someone called a "chopper" to chop off her head. Yikes!
I've honestly never thought of it before (and we have the same book). We don't read it a ton, but I grew up being read nursery rhymes, so I just automatically assumed my girls would too. However, now that you point that out, it does make sense. I'll have to re-think it.
I too have had to change the wording on-the-fly.
For Goosey Gander I say "lead him down the stairs"
And what about the old lady who lives in a shoe...
She gave them some broth without any bread,
Then *kissed* them all soundly and put them in bed.
Instead of "whipped them all soundly"
You're absolutely right. I've been skipping some pages, or at least cutting them short:
"There was an old lady who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn't know what to do."
Yup! That's enough of that one!
A friend brought up the issue of movies, too. When I started noticing how the cartoons I grew up with are full of prejudice, racism, tobacco, alcohol, and even drug use, etc., I stopped being so anxious to pass them on to the next generation.
That's awful!!! We haven't read traditional nursery rhymes to our kids, mostly because we don't have a collection of them, but I don't think I'm going to go out searching for one anytime soon! Yikes! I have been amazed at even modern day cartoons and some books too that simply have no redeeming value in them. Who writes those things anyway?!
I never really put much thought into it until I was teaching preschoolers. I remember doing a thematic unit on nursery rhymes, and while I was preparing my curriculum, I was having the hardest time picking out rhymes that weren't somehow horrifying.
There was a study that suggested that reading nursery rhymes helps with early literacy, but ANY reading aloud -- picture books, poems, etc -- is beneficial for young children.
My son does have a book of nursery rhymes that he received as a gift, but I had a similar reaction when I thumbed through it, and it's been tucked away in his closet ever since. I may donate it to the library or turn it in to the used book store for credit.
I have read them to my kids. When they are old enough to get the meaning, then we talk about the history of them and how different things are now.
Agreed! Same goes for older "kids movies" like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc... the cruelty and fright are a bit too much for our family.
our nursery rhyme books are on the top shelf with the other adult books. my kids are definitely not ready for those stories. i think that if the books hadn't come as gifts we might not have kept them over the years either.
When we get a new book of nursery rhymes, this always happens to us as well... we will be reading it aloud to our children, and suddenly realize what we just said... pretty disturbing!
You know I didn't like them growing up so I never read them to my girls. I actually think we might have a book of them but it's one of the books that never gets touched. We do love books of poetry though so I guess those are our "nursery rhymes" Who thought these up, seems like there should be some horror movie behind every one!
My dad used to read me the original Grimm's Fairytales. I'm convinced that is why I'm a little twisted. They are dark and extremely disturbing and not meant for children.
We don't have books of nursery rhymes. I bought an old book of fairy tales from a library sale and was quite surprised. I didn't realize how sanitized most of the tales are today. I was reading Rumplestilzkin to Sabrina, which used to be one of my favorites, and was surprised to see them threatening the miller's daughter with death as punishment if she didn't spin the straw into gold. We (my husband and I) chuckle at how sanitized everything is for kids now (we do have a little book with "This Little Piggy" rhyme in it and it doesn't say "this little piggy had none" it says this little piggy had fun) but some of it is obviously good.
Nursery rhymes originated as a way to have a bit of free speech in England when they did not have free speech. They were ways to spread history or political information quickly.
Now a-days most of the original meanings have been lost, but most people know that "Ring around the Rosy's" is about the Bubonic plague. Yuck!
I agree, some of them are so bad. I rarely read our son that book, so I can't remember the names of some examples right now. However, have you ever read Jack and the Beanstalk... that is not good either. The boy climbs up the beanstalk and keeps stealing from the Giant and finally he almost catches the boy, so the boy and his mother kill the Giant!!! Crazy stories people make up for kids... not very kid-friendly if you ask me.
I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who finds the nursery rhymes a bit disturbing! We still have our book, but we rarely read it and I skip certain parts.
We didnt really do nursery rhymes either- I confess Im not really into the disney princess thing either. I guess there is research out there saying that it helps literacy etc for nursery rhymes- my son's 4k class did 2 weeks of them.
Oh no! The boys have never been interested in traditional nursery rhymes, so I never noticed the words.... but now that I think of some of them... they're horrible!!!
And I love Chelsea's song. Her version is much better :)
We that exact book and another one in the series that is basically the same but purple with different, but equally disturbing nursery rhymes!
I love the textures of the book, physically, but they are tucked away (hiding!) on a shelf for the exact reasons you mentioned.
BTW I have changed the words to a lot of nursery rhymes or songs that we sing - for example... ahem... feel free to sing along:
Rock-a-bye Baby, in the tree top,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
and MOMMY WILL CATCH YOU, CRADLE AND ALL.
I refuse to sing, nightly, to my daughter that she will fall crashing from a tree onto the ground.
Ha! We were given that exact nursery rhyme book as a shower gift, and I had the exact same reaction to many of the rhymes the first time I read it to my daughter. It has sat unopened on a book shelf ever since then. I should give it away too. Great idea. I never thought to go through her bookshelf when filling the donation basket, but I'm sure there are a few books in there that none of us would mind parting with.
Daycare has a CD of songs like this that they play when the kids are napping -- I had never listened to the lyrics until this week and I wish I had! They are HORRIBLE!!!
The little old lady who swallowed the fly! What an awful rhyme. I do read poetry to my daughter but skip over the questionable ones. Rosemary Wells has a nice book of nursery rhymes:
I never thought "nursery rhymes" were so horrible until I actually started reading them to my little ones as babies, but OH MY!!! I kept the book, but it has collected much dust. We prefer Shel Silverstein for poetry around here.
I totally remember having nightmares as a kid about some of these stories!! (ie. Rock-a-bye Baby, Hansel and Grettel, ect.) I don't read those types of things to my babies... I actually pray for protection of what they see and hear because there is just so much stuff out there today. Whoever came up with these stories and thought that they would be ok for little kids anyway?
I got rid of ours too! I remember growing up with one...but clearly didn't remember the meanings of them all. My mom gave us one for our kiddos, since we grew up with it, but when I read through most of them, I was a bit appalled. These are not ones that I want my kiddos to know! And...with my daughters imagination these days, the slightest thing can be turned into a scary thing for her. She notices everything...down to facial expressions in books. Like you, I don't want them to be ignorant in any way, but I also don't need them hearing some scary and morbid things this young. We'll stick to the books that teach good lessons!