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Words and music

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When most people think about libraries, they draw an image of people studying in silence or reading books. When I think about the library, music comes to mind. From books that promote singing to story times and other programs, music is actually more important to reading than most people realize.

Music is one easy way to help children with their literacy skills. Music helps with rhyming, vocabulary, letter knowledge and narrative skills. It can slow down speech, which helps break down words. The repetition in songs helps to reinforce vocabulary.

There is the added benefit that music can be done all the time. Once a song is stuck in a child’s head, he or she might continue to sing it all day long. We use music in our library story times on a daily basis. Music is a good way to get the kids up and moving in between reading of books.

It is also a good time to work on other skills such as counting or fine-motor skills.

We sing songs such as “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” or do finger plays like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Kids seem to love singing along, no matter what age they are. There are many wonderful stories available that are actually songs.

One classic storybook that I sing during Starry Night Sing-Along is “Five Little Ducks,” illustrated by Ivan Bates. My favorite book of the moment is “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons” by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean. There is actually a whole series of “Pete” books, and you can find videos online to learn the tune for each one.

Many authors take traditional songs and turn them into new stories. Jane Cabrera is one of my go-to authors for songs. Her book “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” adds many new verses to the original song, all with fun illustrations.

Another fun book that twists a familiar song into something new is “The Croaky Pokey” by Ethan Long. Kids will be dancing along, probably acting like frogs the whole time.

A new favorite book that adds a multicultural side to an old familiar one is “Old Mikamba Had a Farm” by Rachel Isadora. Old Mikamba watches over animals such as a giraffe and an elephant on the plains of Africa — kids might learn some new animal sounds with this one.

Music at the library isn’t only for kids. We have a large selection of music CDs in all genres that can be checked out. You can use our online databases such as Freegal or Hoopla to download or stream music.

There you will find new, popular music as well as older, more obscure songs and artists.

I have to end by mentioning something special coming to the library: To celebrate our plaza renovation, we will be hosting Black Violin, presented by the Columbus Area Arts Council and sponsored by NTN Driveshaft Inc. This musical duo, trained on violin and viola, blend classical and popular music. This event will happen 7 p.m. Friday on our plaza, and it is free for everyone to attend.

My love of music started at a very early age. I didn’t realize back then that it impacted my reading skills, but it makes sense now.

Thankfully I don’t have to be able to carry a tune or sound good. The kids that come to my story times or sing-along are happy to sing with me. Sometimes they are even able to drown me out, something the parents probably appreciate.

Valerie Baute is a library assistant in children’s services at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

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