Like many of you, I use a lot of music in my storytimes. I really believe in the importance of singing to help build early literacy skills and I place a high priority on singing three to four songs in each storytime.
I have always been comfortable singing in front of a crowd because I’ve been in choirs since I was a preschooler myself, so I do sing my songs a capella. All of my welcome/opening/goodbye songs are sung to familiar tunes (“If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “Farmer in the Dell”), but my storytime parents do not sing along with me!
I realize that there are lots of reasons why parents might not be singing. Many of my storytime parents are not native English speakers, and I’m sure that some of them feel their voices are not singing-in-public voices. But I want to make it easier for parents and kids to connect with music in storytime. So, I’ve been searching for ways to make songs more accessible for my storytime parents.
One of the things I’ve found to be successful is using hand-held musical instruments. We have egg shakers and wrist/ankle bells for both kids and parents to use. Kids, of course, love making noise and the parents will eagerly pick up an instrument instead of singing.
I’ve also found that using books I can sing along with will prompt my storytime parents to join in on the chorus. Some of my favorites include the Jane Cabrera books: “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” and “Wheels on the Bus.” I think having a book to help parents remember the words definitely helps and I also think that having the kids focused on a book might make it easier to chime in.
This summer, I’m going to be creating easel signs with the words to my most repeated songs, as well as a song dice for the kids to roll to see which songs we’ll be singing. I plan to include really familiar tunes so that everyone will hopefully get comfortable singing along by the end of our eight-week session.
How do songs work at your library’s storytimes? Do you use recorded music? Does that seem to get parents singing along? Let me know!
– Katie Salo
Youth Services Manager
Melrose Park Library