I forget when Elka first recited a nursery rhyme. That should be one of the things you include in a baby book. I know that at Christmas last year, not even two, she stood beside my Uncle Paul way after her bed time and lead eighteen of us in nursery rhyme after nursery rhyme. After each one, she demanded More! And so it went – baa baa after twinkle twinkle until she collapsed in a state of post nursery rhyme bliss.

Australian children’s author, Mem Fox, says that if a child knows six nursery rhymes by heart before the age of four, there’s a fairly good chance the child will be a great reader by the age of eight. Not that I particularly mind if Elka can read or not by the time she is eight (I’m a bit of a un-schooler at heart), I think she’s well on her way to being an avid reader, if Mem’s prediction is true.

There is something potent about nursery rhymes; strange little stories that they are. How about See-saw Margery Daw. Johnny should have a new master. He should have but a penny a day because he can’t work any faster? A little mean. Poor Johnny. This was obviously written before the French Revolution. Or Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. Down will come baby, cradle and all. I can never bring myself to sing it aloud.

Of all the books (wonderful books) Elka has on her book shelf, the one we return to night after night is the book of nursery rhymes. The rhymes are simple. Easy to remember. (Completely unethical). Most of them are recited on CDs we listen to in the car or are performed on Playschool. I cringe reading them – but Elka loves them.

Mem Fox wrote Good Night, Sleep Tight  in 1988 to help children engage with nursery rhymes so they may potentially remember at least six before the age of four. The book has been re-created and released this year.

Judy Horacek, who illustrated one of Mem Fox’s most popular books, The Green Sheep, has breathed fresh life into Good Night, Sleep Tight. 

It’s a beautiful, simple read. Skinny Doug, the favourite babysitter, recites nursery rhymes to Bonnie and Ben – two sleepy children. And the best part it, after you have read it once, you barely have to read it again, if the nursery rhymes are already familiar. You simply need to turn the pages, and the images prompt your memory so that the rhyme can fall playfully from your tongue.

I asked Elka – the best critic I know – for a verdict. She replied: Read it again. You can’t get a better credential.

Later that evening, she was sitting on the couch, alone, Good Night, Sleep Tight in lap. She is nearly three, and she was reciting the book cover to cover. Her love of the good old-fashioned nursery rhyme has primed her well for this lovely book.

Do you have a favourite Mem Fox book? 

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{Linking with Jess at Essentially Jess for the last IBOT of the year.}