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Nursery rhyme books are a staple of childhood reading for good reason – they’re short and simple to read and remember, but they also contain layers of storytelling that introduce very young children to the way stories , rhymes and language works. Reading nursery rhymes is a great way for parents and caregivers to bond with their little ones. children quickly learn the rhythms of these kinds of poems, kinds of songs, kinds of stories, and will quickly have their favorite characters and turns of phrase that they will be delighted to hear. The oral and interactive nature of nursery rhymes means that reading them to children can become a two-person activity as well as a group activity, involving the whole family in the fun.
Traditional nursery rhymes have been retold and retold in many editions, with slightly different twists and often with beautiful new artwork to explore. But many writers have also taken old rhymes and used them as a springboard to create brand new work, reinterpreting the rhymes or updating them for the modern era. Other authors and illustrators created their own nursery rhymes, bringing new tales and characters to children’s storytimes. There are tons of nursery rhyme books for babies and toddlers that parents and carers will love exploring – here are some of the best.
The Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes by Raymond Briggs
While the late great Raymond Briggs was best known for works such as The Snowman and When the wind blows, he also created a book of nursery rhymes, with the beautiful illustrations for which his books are so well known. There are over 250 nursery rhymes in this book, with old classics and new favorites for families to read together.
Singing Black: Alternative Nursery Rhymes for Children by Mari Evans, illustrated by Ramon Price
A new take on a beloved classic, black song contains nursery rhymes centered on the African-American experiences of the famous poet Mari Evans. Evans’ nursery rhymes focus on family and friendship, and are wonderful to read aloud to children.
The Orchard Book of Nursery Rhymes for Your Baby by Penny Dann
This super cute book contains 60 of the most famous nursery rhymes, including “Hickory Dickory Dock” and “Old Macdonald Had a Farm”, perfect for any caregiver to read or sing along to! – to their baby. Dann’s illustrations bring nursery rhymes to life and your baby will love looking at the pictures.
Rhymes of the Times: Black Nursery Rhymes by Audrey Muhammed, illustrated by Kofi Johnson
Following a conversation with his brother about how they could both remember nursery rhymes they had heard as children, Muhammed wrote rhymes of time teach black history to young children through nursery rhymes. With poems such as “Martin Had a Little Dream” and “Woman on the Bus”, this book is both fun and educational for children.
Every Plum Pear Peach by Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Janet Ahlberg
A sort of meta-rhyme, Each Plum Pear Peach has been popular reading for generations. The poem’s story moves through a world of nursery rhyme, following a variety of famous nursery rhyme characters, and the fantastically detailed illustrations mean there’s plenty for children and their adults to spot and discuss.
Chinese and English nursery rhymes by Faye-Lynn Wu, illustrated by Kieren Dutcher
Chinese and English nursery rhymes is a great read for any caregiver who wants to immerse their child in more than one language from an early age. Wu’s book features nursery rhymes like “Hickory Dickory Dock” and “Muffin Man” in English and Mandarin, the two versions side by side. Downloads of each language are also available to help families sing and speak.
Lullaby (For A Black Mother) by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Sean Qualls
In Lullaby (for a black mother), the poet Langston Hughes writes a beautiful tribute to the bond between a black mother and her baby. Hughes’ nursery rhyme is easy to speak and sing along to, and beautiful illustrations by Sean Qualls make this book a perfect gift for any parent of a brand new baby.
The Great Nursery Rhyme Disaster by David Conway, illustrated by Melanie Williamson
The great nursery rhyme disaster takes traditional nursery rhymes and flips them. Little Miss Muffet is fed up with her tuffet, so she goes looking for a new rhyme to live in, causing chaos along the way. Young children with a little knowledge of old nursery rhymes will find the subversion hilarious, as will their adults.
With these nursery rhyme books and more, parents and guardians will have plenty of upbeat or soothing options to read to the young children in their lives. If you are interested in the stories of some famous nursery rhymes, try 6 Nursery Rhymes and Where They Come From. Want more alternative nursery rhymes? Try Jack Fell Down and Broke His…