HISTORY OF BOOK CENSORSHIP: This presentation is perfect for Banned Books Week or as an introduction to book burning in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The slides give a brief history of nine censorship and book banning incidents in world history.

Currently Reading...

THE MAID: Molly’s orderly life as a hotel maid is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect.


Library Challenge #1 tasks you with an annual review (or maybe your first review) of your library's Selection and Reconsideration Policies.

LIBRARY CHALLENGE #1 Are library book challenges scary? I think so! But they are much less scary when you have a strong plan. When you know exactly what to do

Read More »
This article is 10 essential tips for new school librarians. These are the 10 things you should do FIRST in your new school library.

You’ve landed a brand new school librarian job–congratulations! All summer, you’ve looked forward to standing in the middle of your very own library, taking a deep breath, and reveling in

Read More »
This is a collection of fun ideas for middle school library orientation. Even if you don't use the ideas, the videos are a lot of fun to watch!

Ahh, the first day of school! Call me crazy, but I’ve always loved it! I will see my first middle school library orientation classes this Wednesday. We have a book

Read More »

Dark Meanings of Nursery Rhymes : A Library Lesson for Older Students

Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share a fun lesson about the dark meanings of nursery rhymes. Secondary students LOVE hearing these stories! They are an interesting way to introduce nursery rhymes to older students who would probably find them “babyish” without the back stories.


These theories are so interesting, even for adults! When using this lesson with students, be sure to emphasize that these are just theories. Some have more merit than others, but they are fun to talk about and will help students remember the nursery rhymes.

Some students will love this so much that they research other dark meanings of nursery rhyme on their own!


I did lesson similar to this one when I taught seventh grade ELA, so it should be fine for most secondary libraries.

I’ve taught the dark meanings of nursery rhymes numerous times over the years, but I created this version specifically to share with you.

While this isn’t my exact lesson, I’ve taught all these nursery rhymes with students as young as seventh grade, so they should be fine for most secondary students.

Elementary librarians, this lesson may be okay for some 4th or 5th graders, but please review it with content in mind before you use it.

The theories behind “Jack and Jill” and “Ring Around the Rosie” are gruesome.

“Hey Diddle Diddle” mentions pubs and ale (the “little dog” laughs because he is drunk).

You are welcome to make any changes to the text that you need to suit your library. All sources are referenced in the content notes at the bottom of each slide, as are the sources for the artwork.


The most obvious extension activity is for students to research a nursery rhyme of their choice. They would then report the meanings of the rhymes to the class. Some great nursery rhymes for this activity include:

  • “Three Blind Mice” (about Mary I, a.k.a. “Bloody Mary”)
  • “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” (also about Mary I)
  • “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” (exercising female prisoners)
  • “Baa Baa Black Sheep” (either medieval wool taxes or the West African slave trade)
  • “Rockabye Baby” (multiple theories, including possible royal heir not really being the heir)
  • “Old Mother Hubbard” (refusal to give King Henry VIII an annulment of marriage)
  • “Dr. Foster Went to Gloucester” (humiliation of King Edward I)

For world history classes, ask students to research historical events behind nursery rhymes like “Jack and Jill” (French Revolution and Reign of Terror) or “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” (Mary I of England).


This is a nursery rhymes library lesson for Grades K-3. It includes a 54-slide presentation, plus two differentiated activities. Perfect for National Poetry Month in April!For younger students, I also have a Nursery Rhymes Trivia Game that is great for helping students read, learn, and review 25 different nursery rhymes. No prior knowledge is needed for the game.

Also for younger students, I’ve got a Nursery Rhymes Library Lesson Storytime that spans 1-2 library lessons. It’s got a scavenger hunt activity and separate list of Recommended Reads to go with it!



Copy the “The Dark Meanings of Nursery Rhymes” library lesson to your Google Drive.

*PLEASE NOTE: The presentation above is original work. Even though it is free and editable for librarians and teachers to use with their classes, it is still my intellectual property. You are welcome to share links to this article on social media or blog posts, but please do not publish or redistribute this work without written permission from the author.


Collazo, Leigh R`. “Dark Meanings of Nursery Rhymes : A Library Lesson for Older Students.” MrsReaderPants, 11 Apr. 2022,

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop