Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sing It Loud!

Being a parent/caregiver is extremely hard work.  I speak from the experience.  My 14-month-old is currently waging war on bath time.  

Sometimes when it feels like all our hard work falls flat, it’s cool to learn that activities we regularly share with our little ones have far-reaching benefits (and can save our sanity).

This week I want to share about how the simple and fun act of singing with your young child can help prepare them for later reading success!

When we sing with children, we are doing much more than creating a fun and happy environment.  We are also showing how we pronounce words.  We do this by slowing down the way we say the words and by putting emphasis on each syllable (beat) of the word.  It’s really easy to see this in practice. 

Try simply saying “old MacDonald had a farm.”  Try not to sing at all.  You might notice how we tend to race through our words when we normally speak.  This is called using relaxed pronunciation.

Try it again.  But this time sing the phrase.  You may notice how things really slow down and that we add emphasis while we sing.  Each syllable (beat) is sung to its own distinct note.  One of the of most critical pre-reading skills that kids need to be successful when learning to read is called phonological awareness (the ability to recognize the smaller sounds in words).  When we sing, we give kids a major phonological awareness boost!

Another pre-reading benefit of singing is a better understanding of how stories are put together.  This is really noticeable when we sing familiar folk songs like Old MacDonald Had a Farm or There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  These songs follow very familiar structures.  Even if we introduce a completely new animal to Old MacDonald’s Farm, the child who has heard the song will instantly know how to react… E-I-E-I-O, with a (insert animal sound) here, etc.  Even pop songs often follows very recognizable patterns that kids will recognize: e.g., verse-chorus-verse-chorus.

We call a child’s understanding of how stories work narrative skills.  Like phonological awareness, it is a very important pre-reading ability.

For more information on the benefits of singing with young children, visit this wonderful page that was developed by the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. 

To see a first-hand look at how books and songs go hand-in-hand, check out this jaw-dropping video from children’s musician and author Jim Gill’s YouTube channel.

There are dozens of wonderful picture books that build on familiar songs.  Here is a list of 10 books I particularly like (along with links to YouTube versions of the songs):

 Title: The Fox Went Out On a Chilly Night
Author: Peter Spier

Title: Frog Went A-Courtin'
Author: John Langstaff
Illustrator: Feodor Rojankovsky

Title: Hush, Little Baby
Author: Marla Frazee
Title: I Had a Rooster
Author: Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Find this book at your library

I Had a Little Rooster as sung by Michelle at the Edmonton Public Library

Title: May There Always Be Sunshine
Author: Jim Gill
Illustrator: Susie Signorino-Richards

Title: Over in the Meadow
Author: Olive Wadsworth
Illustrator: Ezra Jack Keats

Title: Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Author: Jane Cabrera

Title: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
Author: Simms Taback

Title: This Land Is Your Land
Author: Woody Guthrie
Illustrator: Kathy Jakobsen
Title: What a Wonderful World
Author: George David Weiss & Bob Thiele
Illustrator: Ashley Bryan

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this list! It's a great compilation of books!