Three things every parent can do with their children from birth are talking, reading, and singing. In our second blog post, we referred parents to First Five of California. This organization helps parents encourage their child’s development in the first five years of life. A motto First Five used early on was Talk, Read, Sing. These three activities are brain-boosting winners!
I thought about the singing component when I was recently exploring the books of well-known songwriter, author, and illustrator Sandra Boyton. I saw a video of hers, and found it was from her book Philadelphia Chickens. I ordered it for my grandson. When I got the book, I previewed it and delightedly listened to some of the music on the accompanying CD, while reading the lyrics in the book. (I hope my grandson likes it, too.) It made me think of singing to my own sons when they were small, and singing and using music in the classroom when I taught. I loved the lullabies and nursery rhyme songs I sung with my own. And singing with a bunch of kids in a classroom is a truly fun experience. I also remember the great connection between reading and singing.
Singing Encourages Listening
Listening is an early literacy skill. As the baby and young child hear a song being sung, they will listen, and hear rhythm, and differentiate sounds and words. Even a very young baby will look and listen intently as someone is singing to them. If the person singing is one of their very own valuable people, there will be a connection strengthened between the two. As they get older they will sing along with their own sounds, and eventually mimic the words. Even in the classroom, a phrase or two sung by the teacher will bring a chatty classroom to attention.
Singing Connected With Written Words Encourages Reading
Parents Can Do This
Parents can introduce their young children to singing and written words by the many books available based on nursery rhymes, familiar children’s songs, and more recent songs. Children see the words in a book they can hold, and hear the song, and sing along, and point to the words. This helps them to see, and hear and add meaning to the words. If the child’s special people are singing along with them, and are explaining words a child doesn’t understand, it makes it even more fun and meaningful. This one is reaching w-a-y back, but I remember the old Burl Ives’ recording of I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a fly. I just listened to that again and loved the way he enunciated his words.
Teachers Can Do this, Too
In the classroom we would make this connection between songs we were learning and the written word, by putting up charts of the lyrics for children to see. You would often see a child, or several children, singing the song and pointing to the words.
I have made individual booklets for the children of the songs we were learning. We would sing most mornings from the books. Children learned words and meanings. Sometimes we would act out some parts of the songs, which added to comprehension of the words. For example, we turned over a table to make a barrier to demonstrate the word “ramparts” in The Star-Spangled Banner. There were a lot of words in that song that took explaining. The children were excited, however, about learning the meanings. Children love to learn new words and what they mean. I also encouraged them to use these booklets to look for words they wanted to put in their writing. It was an easy place for them to find words without having to ask. The fact that they knew the songs made the words easy to find.
Help Children Learn By Singing With Them
There are many ways parents and teachers can help children learn. Singing with them is one of them. This Ella Jenkins song is another old one I always liked. The songs I remembered using with young children are old. The concept of talk, read, and sing to your babies is a concept for today.
What are some of the new songs you sing with your young children?