Singing Along with YA Fiction

We know that reading fiction, for many, is a great way to reduce stress. What a gift when reading fiction can lead us to other great art that feeds our souls, holds up a mirror, or just helps us to rock out and let go for a few minutes! (Who doesn’t need a little of that these days?) I’m talking about music of course. In a post that I wrote a few years ago, I shared the pleasure I feel when a character in a book mentions a book that I also love. I still think it deepens a reader’s connection to a story or character and makes an interesting library display, but I think the same is true for music, maybe even more so. If you have ever read a character enjoying favorite or familiar music, doesn’t it put you a little bit more into their story, especially if that music happens to harken back to your teen years? What about an unfamiliar song mentioned in a novel you’re reading – have you ever looked it up to know what the characters are hearing? 

Matching books and playlists has become a thing. Having students create a playlist inspired by a book is a recent example of creative assessment implemented by teachers and librarians. Sometimes authors will publish playlists to accompany their work and I think it’s interesting to know what they were listening to for atmosphere or inspiration while writing, but that’s not what I mean. It was first displayed for me after reading Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, when I decided to create a playlist to match the mixtape that means so much to its recipient, Charlie. When I went online to do so, I discovered that another reader already had! Now I felt connected not only to Charlie and Stephen Chbosky, but to at least one other reader. When a character experiences music, I think it almost behooves the reader to give it a listen. It’s information that the author is giving us in developing a character and immersing the reader in their world. When I was reading Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High, I started listening to Mercedes Sosa’s “Todo Cambia” on repeat.

My students, and probably yours too, always seem to have earbuds or headphones of one kind or another attached to their heads. Their music means a lot to them. It makes sense to me to let music draw them to stories that may mean something important to them as well.

Making reading a multimedia experience is easy thanks to streaming music sites. A soundtrack that puts us back into the world of a beloved book is a gift, and it can connect and reflect our humanity across artforms and works. Here are some playlists I’ve found or created on Spotify linked to young adult novels:

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson (playlist by Tiffany Jackson)

“One Winter” Mixtape from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (playlist by Kyla Leong-Poi)

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley (playlist by me)

Who Put This Song On? By Morgan Parker (playlist by Morgan Parker)

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (playlist by Spotify)

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (playlist by Junauda Petrus-Nasah)

Digital or sign-based book display idea: 

Have you found any others? 

5 thoughts on “Singing Along with YA Fiction

  1. Hi Kate,
    I Love this! Music can be so meaningful to us in so many different ways. Thanks for sharing – I bet your students love doing this – it’s so creative! – Nancy

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