Monday, November 23, 2015

Sing Your Favorite Books

One of my favorite activities in every Sound Beginnings class is story time:  I treasure reading picture books, and when I get to sing them, I love stories times more!

Why Read?

Parents and researchers are well aware of the myriad benefits of reading to young children. Reading to a child:
  • increases his receptive (understood) vocabulary up to 40%
  • improves his expressive (speaking, talking) skills
  • prepares him to perform better in school
  • improves bonding and well-being
  • establishes a culture and pattern for enjoyment of reading
  • promotes communication between you and the child
  • instills positive attitudes toward reading and learning
  • promotes a longer attention span and develops abilities for focus and critical thinking
  • improves listening skills and imagination
  • expands his topical knowledge
  • raises his IQ by an average of 6 points
Why Sing?

It's no surprise, then, that we love incorporating story time into Sound Beginnings class.  Singing the books adds even more boost.  
  • Singing emphasizes rhymes, meter, and patterns in the language. We guide the child to notice and interpret them. 
  • Melody provides a powerful memory tool. It's no wonder every brand has created a jingle for their product!
  • Music enhances the teaching of words, grammar, and concepts.
  • Singing boosts expressive language skills.  Children practice using words and phrases in song lyrics that they have not quite yet mastered in everyday speaking.
  • Singing forces the brain to use both hemispheres simultaneously. We strengthen what we are learning by activating more of the brain as we learn. 
To the Let's Play Music Students:

One more benefit of singing stories: it opens a venue to play with compositionI tell my 3rd-year-students that a composition can start from just about any inspiration, especially from a poem or rhyme.  When my recent LPM-grad daughter saw me making the videos below, she went over to our stack of books and spent an hour creating melodies of her own for each one!

So, singing stories is not too babyish for anyone, and I'm going to help you get started. Who knows!? You may decide to transcribe one of your new tunes, add some accompaniment at the piano, and make a piano piece!

Singable Stories

Here are nine songs that have been made into books. This is a great way to get started since the tune has already been writtenChildren love if you sing these to them over and over while they look at the pictures and words. (click images to go to Amazon)
Image Map  
Your Favorite Books!

The library is bursting with darling books and stories; don't you just wish more of them were sing-alongs?!  Don't despair! YOU have the power to take those books and make them into songs.  Here are some tips to get you going:
  • Choose stories with short, repeating verbal patterns
  • Choose stories that already have meter and rhyme (Dr. Seuss books are perfect examples)
  • Read the story several times to get a feel for the verbiage
  • Go for it: attempt to sing a page or two of the story! Success!
I pause here because you could call it a successful story-telling day already. Sing whatever tune you make up on the spot, and your melodic voice will intrigue your child. But what if my melody was lame? And maybe my voice was off-key?! And I don't even know what notes or patterns I was singing!
Here's the great news: your preschooler thinks you're awesome already! No judging! We believe learning happens through play (read our post), when everyone is free to try new things without fear. Are you brave enough, Mom and Dad, to try, too?
If you'd like to make that story even better, do this next:
  • Eventually settle on one melody for this story. Try to remember the melody, and sing the same one every time you read this book. Being memorable is one trait of a great melody.
  • Be repetitive.  The words of the story repeat, and your short melody repeats.  Over and over and over. Toddlers love it.
  • Simple is best! If you have bells or a piano in your home, use them to tap out a do-re-me-fa-sol, or other simple patterns. Then try to incorporate them, changing the rhythms as needed to fit your words.
  • Incorporate any of these common patterns: mi-re-do, sol-sol-do, sol-la-ti-do, sol-fa-mi-re-do, and sol-mi-do.  Ask your music teacher to show you these on the bells or by singing if you haven't been to Let's Play Music class.  These are very common melodic patterns that we will be singing and reading for 3 years in Let's Play Music. They each draw us back to Do and make a great ending to a musical phrase.
  • An advanced challenge is to take your favorite story, even if it doesn't have obvious meter and rhyme, and you have to make up meter and pretend that it rhymes.
Hippos Go Berserk

Okay, to show you how I do this in my family, I grabbed our very-worn copy of Hippos Go Berserk.  I sang it to the kids a few times until I could settle on a memorable tune that I decided was the one for this book. Just for you, I went back and analyzed what I was doing (this is great if you want to transcribe your melody like our 3rd year students will do.)  

I have a Do. mi-re-do pattern, but I added repeats as needed to fit with the words.  So "One Hippo all alone" is Do mi-mi re-re-do."  See? Still a mi-re-do, I just duplicated some notes. My entire song has this pattern:

Do. Mi-re-do.
Do. Sol-fa-mi.
Do. Mi-re-do.
Sol. Fa-mi-re-do.
Check it out:

I'm a Baby, You're a Baby
Here's another worn-out book in our house. I'm a Baby, You're a Baby. I didn't find an easy way to incorporate the animal words into the song, but luckily found that everyone likes it when I pause so they can shout out the answers.

The Composer in You

I hope you will try this idea of singing books a try.  You will really be improving your composition skills and improvisation.  Better yet, you'll be showing your children that we play with music.  We don't just perform music that is written out in a score and practiced in rehearsal halls, we create music with the language around us, and we find the music hidden everywhere we go! It can be so silly.

You'll start to be aware of lanaguage: What melodic patterns fit these words? What rhythms do these words naturally have?  Could I sing a tune to that phrase? You'll notice musical possibilities all around and expand your composing skills by bounds.

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music teacher  

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