Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library

14 March 2022

Recording of the week: A time for nursery rhymes

This week’s selection comes from Giulia Baldorilli, Sound and Vision Reference Specialist.

If you could choose to go back in time, where would you go?

A black and white photo of children looking at a fantasy illustration in a bookPhoto by Adam Winger on Unsplash.

Nursery rhymes are something we never forget over the years. They hold memories of our school games and playful times with friends. They sound familiar to us even after a long time. 

In this collection of oral history recordings, Iona Opie interviews a group of children from Capri. Being Italian, I’ve chosen an excerpt that sounds familiar, in which I recognise the words and rhymes.

Children singing recorded in Capri, Italy [BL REF C898/44]

The centrality given to children, to their voices, is the particularity of this collection: the subjects are the children themselves. Hence these recordings assume a different perspective for an oral history of nursery songs and games: the story is one told by the very protagonists. Ultimately, this creates an altogether more diverse kind of storytelling.

Simple and evocative: these compositions are designed to be easy to remember, thus they have an educational value.

Nursery rhymes are language acquisition opportunities, we master them with our peers throughout childhood, and we can recall them years later.

More information about the Iona and Peter Opie works can be found on the Playtimes website. Playtimes is part of a wider Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project entitled Children’s Games and Songs in the New Media Age.

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