Don’t Stop the Music!

What does music have to do with reading? Everything!

It may surprise you to learn that music and singing are pretty big supporters of your child’s early literacy development.

That’s why “Singing” is one of the library’s five activities (Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing) to be found in every Build A Reader Storytime offered at a Tulsa City-County Library location.

Developing language for a little brain works like this: Before you can say a word, you have to know how to make a sound. Language is made up of all kinds of sounds that we put together to build a word. Ergo, words are sounds arranged with purpose. To make a sound (with purpose), you have to first hear that sound. Sounds come from all over, sometimes too fast to comprehend for little brains.

However, there are some sounds that little brains latch on to, such as the sounds of a caregiver’s or parent’s voice and musical sounds. Words set to music, a.k.a. singing, will slow them down into delicious, bite-size pieces, and the developing brain will simply feast on them. These digestible phonemic bits will make it easier for the little brain to hear what makes up language, and will help children eventually use words to express themselves.

Music and singing can make otherwise uneventful, everyday tasks fun activities to do. This lesson is taught, again and again, in such childhood classics as “Mary Poppins,” “The King and I,” “The Sound of Music,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and countless others. More recently, Daniel Tiger is making bank on putting rules, life advice, and lessons in short, snappy songs that are catchy and repetitive. Daniel and crew know the most effective way to learn is through both song and repetition. Your kids will never be able to say that they didn’t know a rule if you SING that rule so often that they find themselves singing it, too. Music and singing can reinforce learning and be fun at the same time.

What makes music such a good early literacy activity is that you can combine it with almost all of the other activities to get a super-charged learning activity with very little effort. Let’s come up with some combinations:

Singing plus talking:

Singing is another way to bring in those 30,000 words that science tells us babies need to hear daily. It is also a fun way to help build their vocabulary.

Singing plus writing:

Many children’s songs have finger or arm actions to accompany them. These actions help us build our writing skills by working those little finger muscles! (Hint: this helps us hold writing implements later on!)

Singing plus reading:

Like talking, reading is a great way to get words into your children’s life. Try this: Does your child have a favorite book you read over and over? Try singing the words next time to bring something new to something familiar. Did it change anything about the book?

Singing plus playing:

These two might go together the best of all. Encouraging your child to sing a favorite song is a fun play-time activity. In addition, having music on during a play session can encourage natural movement. We respond naturally to music by moving our bodies to the rhythm. If you have music on during a play session, children might make their own decision on how their body will respond to the music. They might just spontaneously burst into action just by their own imaginative force. (Grownups call this dancing.)

Look at all those early literacy combinations! Isn’t singing awesome?

All of the five Build A Reader activities (Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing) are important. They are TRUE SCIENCE that has been proven to help children develop the skills necessary to process language and be future successful readers. That’s the best kind of science, if you ask me!

Categories: Books and Literacy