Guest Blogger

Jim Gill on Music Play with Purpose

I recently attended the California Kindergarten Association’s PK1 Conference, where Jim Gill was the keynote speaker/singer and presented a workshop on Music Play with Purpose.  I attended because I think Jim’s work is remarkable.  I love sharing his recorded music in preschool and school age storytimes at my library and recommend it wholeheartedly to parents and anyone working with young children.  Jim’s songs are full of inventive word play, fresh and unexpected rhymes and playful prompts for children to join in the active fun.  Both children and adults (including a legion of children’s librarians!) delight in Jim’s exuberantly silly songs.

Jim is an early childhood specialist, with a graduate degree in child development with an emphasis on play.  He has created 6 albums, many of which are ALA Notable Children’s Recordings, including his newest, Jim Gill Presents Music Play for Folks of All Stripes.

Soup Opera
Soup Opera

He’s also written 2 delightful pictures books — the latest is A Soup Opera, a zany sing-along with CD, also an ALA Notable Children’s Recording (and fantastic material for a skit or puppet show!)

Like Jim’s music, which features a host of musical styles and accomplished musicianship, his workshop was interactive and lively.  What a treat to sing and dance with him to many of my favorite Jim Gill songs: Stick to the GlueKnuckles Knees, Beethoven’s Five Finger Play, and of course, The Silly Dance Contest!  We also saw, via video, children and adults playing together to two of his newest songs, the ingenious Truck Stop and Foot Notes.

Besides the exhilaration of doing “the curl,” “the twirl,” “the hide” and “the slide” with Jim and a ballroom full of (really nice!) teachers (when we cut a rug to the List of Dances), here are my key takeaways from Jim’s workshop:

  • Sharing playful music with children and their caregivers — music with an element of a game, creative dramatics, word play, etc. — gives the adult and child an opportunity to play together.  This is bonding and also provides many educational benefits for the child.
  • When an adult joins in a child’s play, the play automatically becomes more sophisticated.   Children are constantly learning from the subtle cues of adults.
  • Children develop skills vital to early literacy, such as phonological awareness, through active engagement in word play and rhyming games.
  • Young children become more engaged in these early literacy “building blocks” when the word play is combined with physical movement and active play.
  • Music play fosters broad listening skills — for instance, listening for the next chance to jump in a song like Jump Up, Turn Around. This primes the child for more demanding listening, such as anticipating words that rhyme.
  • Music play can help a child practice self-regulation, as in the song Can’t Wait to Celebrate, where there is an extended “freeze” before the child can cut loose and move.  Current research is showing that, perhaps more than any other single ability, self-control is key to school success.
  • Jim starts with a game (many resulting from his lifelong work with families who have children with special needs) and then crafts a song around it.  He sees music not as something for children and adults to consume, but as something for them to participate in.
  • His goal is for the play to continue at home.

I was absolutely inspired by Jim’s creativity and passion for his work.  He spent most of his presentation, literally, on his toes, he was so eager to share his message (which he later told me he does unconsciously when he’s excited).  In fact, he reminded me of these words from Fred Rogers: “The thing I remember best about successful people I’ve met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they’re doing…  They just love what they’re doing, and they love it in front of others.”

Although I would never, ever give up the pleasure of dancing and giggling with a storytime group to Jim’s marvelous recorded music, since attending his workshop I’ve been inspired to share a few of his songs a cappella.  “Songs where you don’t need any musical instrument, you just sing with the children, that’s when children use language and sing along the most,” he says.  Two songs that are natural choices for simply singing and creating the rhythm with snapping fingers or stamping feet are Alabama, Mississippi and Hands are for Clapping. The possibilities for utilizing his wonderfully playful songs in programs seem nearly endless!

What are your favorite ways to promote music play at your library?

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Sharon McClintock, Jim Gill & Laurie Peck
Sharon McClintock, Jim Gill & Laurie Peck

Our guest blogger today is Sharon McClintock. Sharon is a Children’s Librarian at the City of Mountain View Public Library in Mountain View, CA, where she presents musical storytimes for all ages and is responsible for development of the Children’s Music collection.  Sharon can be reached at sharon.mcclintock@mountainview.gov

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

9 comments

  1. Jane Breen

    Great post! My library families love Jim Gill as much as I do. It is always helpful to read or hear about successful story time, play time music. Thanks ~ jane

  2. Anita L. Gadberry, Ph.D., MT-BC

    I am a huge Jim Gill fan and promote his music and playfulness at nearly all of the early childhood and childhood presentations/seminars/workshops that I do. I am so happy to hear others share this spirit.

  3. Rick

    We had Jim Gill perform throughout our library system this past November. He was absolutely wonderful. He let us tour him around to our local early childhood special education centers and did his Music Play with Purpose workshop for our librarians and childcare providers. Such a fantastic person and presenter!

  4. Monica Jackson

    I got to see his presentation here in Washington State a couple of months ago and I was totally inspired also. His love of what he does really shines through. I’ve always used his music in storytimes and now I use even more!

    1. Sharon McClintock

      Monica, me too! I went back and listened to all of his albums and found gems that I wasn’t using in storytime that work so well! My new favorite is Sliding, Rolling and Jumping!

  5. Jill H.

    I am soooo excited that Jim Gill is coming to Southern Maryland to do this exact same workshop with us in April! We <3 him here and use his music in storytime all the time.

  6. Kary Henry

    I love Jim’s music, his enthusiasm, and his message! I use his songs at storytimes constantly and recently did A Soup Opera with my preschool early literacy storytime.

  7. Lori M.

    I’ve seen Jim many times at concerts and workshops. We have even had him here at our library performing for summer reading. We are so lucky that he is right here in our home state of Illinois!

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