Today is a great day to sing a song with a child! Why? Let me tell you!
May 11, 1888 was the birthday of the famous composer/songwriter Irving Berlin. When I think of classic American music, Irving Berlin is one of the names that come to mind (as I write this I am starting to hum the tune “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”!). However, most little kiddos don’t really know who this amazing composer was. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t teach some great classic songs (such as “Puttin’ on the Ritz” or “God Bless America” by Berlin) to the youngsters in your life. Or, if Berlin’s songs aren’t your cup of tea, sing anything that you enjoy!
Did you know that music is a great way to help children prepare to read? When children learn songs there are a few things that happen. First, songs often have a different note for each syllable that is sung. Children who sing tend to learn (without even knowing that they are learning) that various sounds (or syllables) make up words. And later they learn that a group of words create a sentence—so those little ones that sing or are sung to tend to figure out how syllables work before they sit down and start to learn how to read.
Also, many songs have words that are unfamiliar to children. Think of the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” How many 1 or 2-year-olds do you know that recognize the word “fleece”? Yet there it is in a song that they sing and hear so often that by the time they are a couple of years older they can sing that song all on their own and most likely will learn what that word means. Singing introduces new language and vocabulary to children.
A third reason to sing to little ones is that often there are rhymes in songs. Think of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” In the first verse there are the rhymes of “star/are” and “high/sky.” As children sing or hear these rhyming bits over and over again they learn that some sounds and endings are similar. This helps so that when they start reading they will have a head-start on understanding that various sounds can be used for multiple words and how different combinations of letters can make similar sounds (such as the “high/sky” example).
All in all, there is a lot of early literacy that happens when you sing to or with a child who hasn’t learned how to read yet. So in honor of Irving Berlin’s birthday, sing a song with a little one! It may not be one of Berlin’s own songs that get your toes tappin’—but sing together today and you will help that little one get ahead of the game in learning how to read tomorrow.