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Connecting Music and Literacy

By Pam Schiller, Ph.D. 

Music is an integral part of a quality early childhood curriculum. It plays a role in the following:

  • In setting the tone of the classroom in developing skills and concepts.
  • In helping children make transitions.
  • In building a sense of community.

Of course, if you ask the children, they will tell you singing is part of their daily activities because it's just plain fun!

The Push for Early Literacy Skills

In recent years there has been strong national focus on early literacy.  We have begun to examine and define the valuable role singing songs and reciting chants and rhymes play in laying the foundation for reading readiness. We know, for example, that singing songs and reciting chants and rhymes help build vocabulary and develop sound discrimination. The size of a child's vocabulary (oral language) and his or her skill in being able to discriminate sounds (phonological awareness) are strong predictors of how easily a child will learn to read when exposed to formal instruction. But oral language and phonological awareness are not the only skills that are developed when children are exposed to songs, chants, and rhyme.  Both activities also help develop listening and comprehension skills. With conscious effort we can use them to provide opportunities for children to develop letter knowledge and recognition and to become familiar with the conventions of print.

Song, Chants and Rhymes as a Springboard to Literacy                                                                       

Song, chants, and rhymes can be used to develop every aspect of reading readiness.  In order for children to become avid readers they must have mastery of the skills (mechanics), but they must also have the desire to read (disposition). Disposition grows from positive experiences. Singing songs and reciting chants and rhymes provide a natural way to build the development of skills while ensuring the acquisition of disposition.

Using songs, chants and rhymes as a springboard to literacysimplyrequires being a little more mindful of opportunities and a little more aware of which literacy skills young children are capable of mastering. We would never want to dissect a song so much that we loose the joy of the song.  However, calling attention to the rhyming words in Itsy Bitsy Spider or the alliteration in “Miss Mary Mack” will go a long way in helping children focus on the sounds and structure of language—it will help children develop literacy skills within a meaningful and enjoyable context.

An exciting, innovative release on CD:

Leaping Literacy! by Dr. Pam Schiller.

Leaping Literacy! features 16 fun-filled songs using rhythm sticks, ribbons, and games  to promote reading readiness.  The selections on the CD use rhythm and movement as tools to reinforce basic literacy foundations, letter knowledge, vocabulary development, spatial relationships, phonological awareness, and more!  Starring popular children's singer, Don Monopoli, this CD will provide a joyful way to optimize the learning of literacy skills for children 4 to 8 years of age.  Teachers, librarians and parents will find this new product an essential resource that will be used over and over.

Pam Schiller is a child development specialist and consultant.  She is an expert in the area of early brain development.  Dr. Schiller has authored numerous teacher and parent resource books, as well as several preschool curriculums, children's books and recordings. 

Dr. Schiller's 8-CD series has just been released. Each CD features songs that tie into most curriculums; i.e. food, school days, critters, the wild, wild west, and more!


Previous Tips

•  A Case for Laughing Giggling and Having Fun 
   Activity Tips (11/05) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  Connecting Music and Literacy
   Activity Tips (8/05) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  The Learning Station: Teaching with Songs in Your Heart
   Activity Tips (7/04) - Laurie Monopoli

•  Bean Bag
   Activity Tips (3/04) - Christina Chapman

•  Activities to Integrate Music and Language Arts
   Activity Tips (8/03) - Cindy H. Clark, MMed, MT-BC

Activity Tips for Special Needs and Young Children