Music Soothes the Savage Book

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I always have a tune going in my head. It is usually something I heard on the radio or in a movie, but today I found myself humming the tune to the very lovely, a capella round made up solely of three Latin words, Dona nobis pacem, Give us peace! I have NO idea how that got into my head as I haven’t heard that song for probably five years, but there it was, delightfully echoing through my cranium (and if you clicked the link, now it’s in yours, too).

That of course got me thinking about the fact that I am deeply grateful for the role that music has played and continues to play in my life. If I’m cooking, I have music on. If I have music on that is danceable (and almost everything I listen to is) I’m shakin’ my booty and prancing around the kitchen…perhaps a troubling vision for those who know me… but I digress.

The point is: the magic of music for learning across the curriculum can most productively start in infancy, offering a well-documented support in brain development associated with the learning of mathematics, as well as my beloved literacy.

New parents, caregivers, preschool teachers and primary educators everywhere need to know that music is productive in developing a child’s appreciation of rhyme, alliteration, rich vocabulary, poetic rhythm and fluent self-expression. Music should not be considered an intrusion on teaching, but rather an enrichment of instruction.

Now, I know music (and pretty much anything having to do with the arts) has been excised from the curriculum of many schools, especially it seems, those schools where children might need it most. Therefore, I urge  families and professionals to reconsider the clearly unproductive decision to eliminate music from instruction. Research proves that picture books made up of song lyrics are much easier for beginners to read, and not exclusively for those who already know the words to the songs.

The rhythmical prose and images in such picture books provide an optimal context within which children are supported in acquiring literacy concepts. When a teacher’s query to the child who goes blank while reading a song-based picture book is, “What would make sense here that is spelled like that?,” it cues the use of song, language and print harmoniously. All that artistic richness also develops the core concepts of reading, of books and of print, offering a toe-tapping context in which to make key connections that will lead to lifelong reading and learning.

Give us peace, indeed!

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4 Responses to “Music Soothes the Savage Book”

  1. Nancy Stewart May 20, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Thanks, Mark! A fan of mine forwarded you post to me. What a wonderful article, and now as you predicted, that song is stuck in my head too! I am a professional musician and have been writing and performing for kids and their families for over thirty years. Having the same concerns and passion you expressed ( and worded so beautifully), I felt compelled to do something about the ever-growing lack of singing in our lives, and its impact on all areas of early learning- especially literacy. So in 2012 I started Sing With Our Kids, a community pilot project and free resource website to help get singing back into our daily lives. Like you, I am also passionate about the link between literacy and singing, and have devoted a lot of the website resources to it. With your permission, I would love to include a link to your post. You can check out my website at http://www.SingWithOurKids.com and let me know if that’s okay.
    Thanks for saying it so well!

    • Mark Condon May 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words, Nancy! Music and the rest of the arts need champions like you to promote all that they do to bring beauty into our lives. We’d be delighted for you to share a link to our blog.

  2. Stephen Cooke May 25, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    I agree with your article. I am also appalled by the elimination of Drama from the state curriculum in the UK.

    • Mark Condon May 25, 2016 at 9:35 pm #

      Thanks Stephen. It appears that the arts, the absolute pinnacle of civilization, are being shoved into the background by assessments that can’t figure out how to measure the heart, not just the head. It’s everywhere, it seems. Thanks for your kind words.