Friday, July 18, 2014

Singing A Story: The Magic of Musical Books - Part 1

Singing A Story: The Magic of Musical Books

Part I: Why Sing a Book?

Brigid Finucane here from Merit School of Music in Chicago, where I teach early childhood music and movement classes.

A passion of mine is music and literacy, and one of my favorite ways to share this with students and families is by presenting musical books at the end of classtime. When a book is sung, it goes beyond the simple and everyday – it’s elevated into a new and special experience! A musical book engages, invites positive communal participation, opens teaching opportunities and provides non-stressful (group) pronunciation practice, especially important for the many families and students I work with whose first language is not English.

Music/songs share many elements with the books read in early childhood classrooms. Music/songs use symbolic notation, are rhythmic and sequential (there are beginnings, middles, and ends) provide vocabulary enrichment, teach tenses and plurals, are rich in poetic language, allow visualization, and encourage correct pronunciation.  Music, like the early childhood books we use to inspire, delight and teach concepts and feelings, is reductive – it gets to the heart of things very quickly.

Depending on the season and concepts I want to reinforce, books are sung two or three times, and their subject matter reflects the season or concepts highlighted in  class. Most books employ audience participation through echoing the text line by line or a chorus. Some books are even vehicles to encourage solo singing.


  • The addition of singing and musical elements provides a deeper listening experience, enriches vocabulary, and allows for kinesthetic responses.

  • Mindful selection promotes cultural literacy, connects children with poetry, visual arts, diverse traditions, rhyming and other reading readiness elements.

  • Books move from static to participatory.

  • Book form teaches sequence and develops reflection.

  • Simple musical concepts are introduced: expressive voice (high, low), tempo, qualities of movement (legato, staccato), and dynamics (piano, forte).

  • Community is fostered through singing and responding as a group.
  • Pleasure, a love of books, and an interest in reading are all promoted and encouraged. 

Join me for Part II: Choosing a Book to Sing
Brigid Finucane has worked as an early childhood music teacher since 1995 while continuing her life-long research into cross-cultural music, dances and stories.  Since 2000, she has taught early childhood and general music at Merit School of Music in Chicago, where she also acts as Faculty Mentor. During her time at Merit, she has developed a curriculum teaching English through music for Merit’s outreach program, and created or collaborated on Merit’s Pre-K through 3rd grade curricula. Brigid is passionate about sharing the joy of singing and music-making, and exploring ways iPads can enhance learning in the music classroom. She is an active member in the Children’s Music Network (CMN), a national organization of singers, songwriters, educators and librarians who believe in empowering children through music.

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