“Tell me a story” and “sing me a song” are two of the most common “commands” parents hear. Especially at bedtime! However, both songs and stories are far more than just entertainment. Chapter and verse, they are packed with learning.
A classic example of a learning song that has crossed generations is “the alphabet song,” which needs no title beyond that to instantly know which song is meant. Why do music and learning fit like hand in glove? A website titled BusSongs.com, which posts the lyrics to many beloved nursery rhymes and kids’ songs, searchable both by genre and alphabetically, suggests that “Each nursery rhyme, poem and song has a unique rhythm which helps children remember the words they contain, and this aids in the child's memory development.” It goes on to say that “‘London bridge is falling down, falling down’ incorporates repetition which is easy for the child to remember.” The site further notes that “The golden age for memory development is widely believed to between the ages 6-9, as during this time, a child is able to memorize quickly, and remember things over a great span of time.”
According to Extension, which bills itself as “America’s Research-based Learning Network®,” “Young children love sound. Music activities and experiences help children practice important skills, including thinking, language, motor coordination and understanding emotions.”
Similarly, a decade ago, Elizabeth Carlton wrote an article for the Community Playthings website, titled, “Learning Through Music: The Support of Brain Research,” that remains just as relevant today. Carlton, at the time an assistant professor emeritus of music at Catawba College, church organist, and music consultant at High/Scope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, Michigan, described myriad skills and characteristics music develops in children. Detailing each one, she suggested that music develops listening skills, invites intuitive responses, strengthens aural discrimination, helps both children and adults remember, helps children sing tunefully, helps them speak carefully and pay attention, makes transitions in the classroom go more smoothly, and helps kids cooperate, think, and problem-solve.
Now imagine combining the power of song with related stories. For example, 6 stories from the Start to Read! series also have companion MP3 album downloads. These include I Want a Pet book and album, Jog, Frog, Jog book and album, The New Bike book and album, Peter’s Dream book and album, A Different Tune book and album, and The Last Game book and album.
Another story from the Start to Read! series, Hug Bug (available in iOS eBook or Kindle eBook formats), has an adorable new companion single written by multiplatinum-selling artist Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe and performed in collaboration with Evie Vander Ark. Every child has strong opinions about bugs, but this buggy, techno tune just might change their minds. Both song and book playfully teach colors and describing words, by way of comparison to bug world. “Pink bug, purple bug, orange bug, green. Bugs can look happy, bugs can get mean.” The chorus of “Hug Bug” is all love: “You’re my favorite cuddle bug. You keep me very warm and snug, you like to give a big bear hug, you’re my Hug Bug.”
Recently, this blog published a post titled, “Teaching baby animal names, sounds, and habits teaches important skills.” Kids love baby animals, and another Start to Read! story titled I Grow, Too! (available in iOS eBook or Kindle eBook formats) capitalizes on that natural affinity. Once again, Vander Ark has written a companion song, “I Grow, Too!” Together, song and story playfully show that children inch toward adulthood and so do baby animals. “Hatchlings become turtles. Piglets become pigs. A gosling’s called a goose when it gets real big.” Watch vocabulary expand, and imagination soar, even as eyelids get heavy. With its lullabye sweetness, “I Grow, Too!” will fast become a bedtime favorite.
Next time kids command, “Read me a story!” or “Sing me a song!” why not be ready with both?