By Double Duty Mama
Music is powerful. It can make us feel happy or sad. It can evoke strong memories. It can link us to our culture or heritage.
If you have a young child, you know the power music can have on him or her. There is nothing cuter than a child bopping to the beat or singing in a sweet, small voice.
But music is powerful in another way, too. It helps us read. Music lets children experience language in a way that is rich and fun, and helps develop the ear for the sounds and rhythms that children need to speak and read. There are many more ways music is powerful and related to reading and speaking that you can read about at Songs for Teaching.
Music has always been a part of my children’s lives. Late one night in the hospital, just about 24 hours after my first son was born, I remember scooping him out of his bassinet because he was crying. In the dim room, with my husband snoozing on a cot nearby, I tried to comfort this baby. I was scared —a new, exhausted parent trying to love this fragile little stranger. Without thinking, I started singing “You Are My Sunshine” into his soft, tiny brow.
My husband and I both love music, though neither of us can sing on key. Kids, though, don’t care. They love the sound of our voices and we learned to use music to soothe them. When my older son was an infant, a sure way to get him to sleep was to swaddle him tight, put a pacifier in his mouth and sing, “The Famer in the Dell” while bouncing him gently and closely in my arms.
I would nurse and sing, rock and sing, walk and sing. I chose songs I liked, not just nursery rhymes or those written for kids. I sang over and over again some of my favorite songs, like Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Ice Cream.” I picked ones that were special to me, hoping they would be to my kids, too.
As they grew, we incorporated songs into our bedtime routine, after books. Our list of songs continued to grow. They added songs they learned from school and wanted to sing, including holiday songs or “The Star Spangled Banner.” We added more songs we thought they would like, such as “Rainbow Connection” from the Muppet Movie and “Obladi Oblada” by the Beatles (my younger son’s current favorite that we have sung every night for probably about a year).
Play music while you’re cooking dinner or during baths. Talk about your favorite songs, sharing stories about your life where the music provided a soundtrack. I recently told my kids about the huge role Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” had in my life because it was the last song played at summer camp dances, and you always wanted that nine-minute slow dance to be with someone special. Listen to songs that were played during important events, like your wedding, prom, quinceañera or bas mitzvah, and talk about them.
The point is it doesn’t matter what you sing or listen to — just do it! You’ll share the joy, some memories and help them be ready to read.
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This month, we celebrate early reading and want to encourage parents and caregivers to Read Early, Read Aloud with babies, toddlers and preschoolers! You can learn more about Read Early, Read Aloud, including age-appropriate book suggestions, tips for reading with young kids and, soon, local reading events, at the Read Early, Read Aloud pages.
Be sure to enter to win 50 books in our “My Favorite Book” contest. You can play by answering a couple questions here on Ready. Set. Grow! or on Twitter. For full details, visit the “My Favorite Book” contest rules page by clicking here.
- If Reading Were Like Baseball, We’d Be Rounding Third Base (readysetgrowla.org)
- Raising Biliterate, Bilingual Kids Equals Double the Benefits (readysetgrowla.org)