O Say Can You Sing?

In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy recommending that physicians instruct parents to read aloud to their children from birth. The policy states that parents should be “reading together as a daily fun family activity.” Reading aloud is another important aspect of a child’s life to help support vocabulary development and aligns with all we know about brain development. As librarians, we also know the value of instilling a love of reading at a young age and how that skill can position a young child for future academic success.

What I found noteworthy in The New York Times’ coverage of the new policy was the statement that reading, talking, and singing is viewed as important in increasing the number of words children hear in their first few years. I am certain that most librarians incorporate multiple modalities into our teaching. My experience is that activities outside of reading – especially singing – provide some of the most serious fun I have in class!

For several years, I have used the song “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” as a year-long theme in my Pre-K classes. I kick off the unit by singing along with the original (using Simms Taback’s 1998 book) and then sing and read other versions throughout the year. The students enjoy the melody alongside the texts’ rhyme scheme. Because the books share the same repetitive structure, each time students hear a new version they utilize their background knowledge from prior versions to determine how the narrative will resolve itself. The students also draw comparisons and contrasts among the versions.

Lucille Colandro has authored numerous versions of the original “Fly”, including crowd-pleasing seasonally themed editions. Another of my other favorites is Charise Mericle Harper’s There Was a Bold Lady Who Wanted a Star. This year I am looking forward to incorporating a new version of the story titled There Was an Old Sailor written by Claire Saxby and gorgeously illustrated by Cassandra Allen.

 There Was an Old SailorThere Was an Old Man who swallowed krill

I cannot say that I have a wonderful singing voice. Once I saw how much my students enjoyed singing in class, however, I quickly got over my concerns about singing in public. Armed with more knowledge about why reading, conversing, and singing are all so vitally important to our students, I cannot wait to incorporate even more music into my classes this year!

Please share any ideas you have for adding song in any way in the Library classroom! We can all benefit from these shared ideas. And to read the New York Times article follow this link:

Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children from Birth. The New York Times. June 24, 2014.


One thought on “O Say Can You Sing?

  1. This doesn’t just apply to the little ones, either. Big kids also like being read to, and reading aloud to others. When we had our Moby Dick All Night Readathon, our high school kids really got into reading in turns. I think it makes some kind of connection with our human past as storytellers around a campfire.

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