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Ready to Read Reminder: SING

by: 
Barbara, Evergreen Library

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

I just want to belt this one out! I first heard it on Sesame Street when I was a little girl and I have never forgotten it. From songs on the radio to special songs sung by family members, these are memories that will last a life time.

My grandmother turned 96 this week and there has never been a year when she and I haven't sung Happy Birthday to each other. When I was a baby my mom tells me that I would just laugh and laugh when my grandmother sang, not just polite laughter but, the infectious giggle, full of pure joy. The crazy thing is, my grandmother can't carry a note to save her soul. Psst...Don't tell her! While others were glad she hadn't chosen singing as a profession, I couldn't get enough of her silly songs. The power of music is an incredible thing. That's why ECRR (Every Child Ready to Read) highlights SING as one of their 5 practices designed to promote early literacy in young children.

How does singing with children help them get ready to read? The Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLeL) states that:

Phonological Awareness

Listening to and singing songs is one of the best ways for children to build their phonological awareness skills. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear the smaller sounds in words. This is a critical ability that allows children to sound out words on a page when they start to learn to read.

Because each syllable of every word in a song has its own note, in songs children hear that words can “come apart” in a way that they don't hear when they are listening to an unbroken stream of spoken language. (Chanting rhymes pull apart syllables sometimes, too: Think of how we say “five little mon-keys”.) Most songs and chants for children incorporate rhyming words, which helps children hear that the beginning and ending sounds of a word can be the same or different from other words. When we sing slow songs, children are able to hear words in a drawn-out manner. This can help them learn to distinguish not just syllables and ending sounds, but each individual sound (or phoneme) in a word.

Letter Knowledge

At one point or another, we've all used a rhyme as a mnemonic to help us remember information. (“Thirty days hath September...” or “I before E except after C.”) Songs and chants about shapes or opposites can help children learn to differentiate between objects and ideas. Letter knowledge is, at base, a shape recognition skill, so any rhyme, song, or game that talks about how things are the same and different can help build the skills children will need to identify their letters. And of course, the ABC Song helps them learn their letter names and alphabetical order!

Print Awareness

A foundational early literacy skill is understanding that print has meaning--that we use print to learn and do different things, and that print is all around us. Picture books of familiar songs or chants can help children make the connection between the words they know and the squiggles on the page. Books that show the musical notation of a song introduce children to yet another way print can carry meaning.

Narrative Skills

Many Mother Goose and other classic childhood songs are little stories, and listening to them helps children learn about story structure and sequencing. Even silly songs like “Found a Peanut” or “Little Bunny Foo Foo” have a beginning, a problem in the middle, and a resolution at the end. When children sing these songs, they have the experience of being a storyteller themselves.

Vocabulary

Just like picture books, songs have a great selection of vocabulary words, from the obscure (such as “tuffet”) to the merely less common (“In a cavern, in a canyon”). Hearing new words in context helps children build their vocabularies.

In addition, songs have a long tradition of being used as memory boosters! How many of you can still recite all 50 states because of a song you learned in elementary school? Or what about all the great science words in songs like “Why Does the Sun Shine?”

Print Motivation

Any time we can help children connect the words they say with the words on the page or around them in the environment, we are reminding them that the words that are important to them can be found in print. When children see that print has value, it increases their motivation to learn to read. When we print out lyrics to favorite songs, or read liner notes from a CD, or point to the words under the music in a songbook, we are engaging children in the connection between singing and reading. 

Sing a Song...you won't regret it!