During the 2022 ALSC Institute, I had the great privilege of attending Marine Band Librarian Staff Sergeant Philip Espe’s presentation: Wake Up Your Musicianship for More Inclusive Storytimes!
Philip welcomed us with music and song from the moment we stepped into the room! As a former teacher and choir soprano, I appreciated how Philip scaffolded our learning using a variety of visual, melodic, lyrical and kinesthetic aids. Philip modeled how we can set the stage for all families to embrace their inner musician.
“Music making and music loving is for everyone.”
After taking us through tunes such as “Don Alfonso” and “Campanero” (a Spanish version of “Frère Jacques), Philip encouraged us to evaluate and curate our storytime music, similarly to how we evaluate and curate our storytime collections. Music is an expression of culture, and our communities deserve to hear music that reflects them – in the same way that our communities deserve to see themselves reflected in our collections and in the books we read at storytime. Musical experiences should be…
Philip also encouraged us to analyze song text. Where do the lyrics/melody come from? What is the history of the song? During the audience Q&A, I asked Philip to speak specifically to changing the lyrics of songs rooted in racist origins. Does changing the words but keeping the same tune “transcend” the original meaning, as Betsy Diamont-Cohen asserts in the updated Mother Goose on the Loose?
“Changing the words is erasing the history – you’re erasing the history of pain.”
Nothing about music (even “just” the tune) that was used to oppress and denigrate others is validating or empowering. The world of music is SO wide! It’s not hard to skip these songs in favor of music that celebrates our communities.
Here are some additional resources to help us do just that:
- Keeping the Joy in Storytime: Dismantling Racism in Storytime Songs by Meghan Klaus, Annie Lin, and Amber Moller and Juana Flores https://www.urbanlibrariansconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Keeping_the_Joy_In_Storytime__ULU_2021_Conference_Presentation_1.pdf
- Mama Lisa’s World: International Music and Culture https://www.mamalisa.com/
- Melodic Racism: Children’s Songs & White Supremacy by Jacqueline Kelly-McHale https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1FqK0eF5Kg
- Songs with a Questionable Past compiled by Lauren McDougle https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/1q1jVGqOgKxfiUZ8N3oz0warXefGIJill2Xha-3X5nUY/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR1u7GThu-w89gZVRklq_X0GOgxUpjRxEQJ5c2a89nMBCwao-vvscCwWTVY
- “You Might Be Left with Silence When You’re Done” by Martin Urbach for the National Association for Music Education https://nafme.org/you-might-be-left-with-silence-when-youre-done/
How do you “set the stage” for all families to embrace their inner musician in storytime? Let me know in the comments below.
Guest contributor Jessica Fredrickson (she/her/hers) is a Youth Services Librarian for Arapahoe Libraries. For the past three years, Jessica has served on the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy Steering Committee, spearheading the collaborative ALSC/CLEL Virtual Storytime Services Guide. Professionally, Jessica is known for advocating for accessibility and giving storytime flannels early math makeovers. Her favorite things include tea, mountain hikes and middle grade fiction. She is looking forward to attending her first ALSC Institute!
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.