Musical Memories

Musical Memories

by Jill Philby

Coming back to Iowa from Thanksgiving this year, the car was packed tightly. My parents were passing on some items they no longer used, so my daughter was the lucky recipient of my dad’s old stereo system--the kind with a turntable that you could stack with records.  While I remember my dad occasionally listening to classical music, what really comes back to me is my own little red portable record player. I played all sorts of records–anything we had in the house. Captain Kangaroo, Cowboy Bob and Janie, and, yes, even back then, Disney records.

Eventually, records transitioned to cassette tapes, CDs, and, now, streaming.  Any of those are great ways to bring the benefits of music into your home, but one of the best ways to incorporate music into your child’s life is one you probably haven’t thought of: singable books!  When you combine a musical tune with the words and illustrations in a book, you have a winning combination.  Singing a book is great for language development as it helps children learn to decode sound and word patterns and increase vocabulary. Plus, the exposure to rhythm builds reading fluency, while seeing the text helps your child make the connection between the written word and the spoken word. Singing a book lights up all of a child’s brain!

Here at Ames Public Library, it’s easy to know where to start—Mother Goose! As a matter of fact, Mother Goose may be the first experience your children have with a singable book. Not all the rhymes have a tune, but they all have a catchy rhythm and can be easily shared among generations of family and friends.  One of my favorite Mother Goose books is Iona Opie’s “Here Comes Mother Goose”, but if you aren’t familiar with the tunes to the rhymes, check out either Sharon, Lois, and Bram’s “Mainly Mother Goose” or Susie Tallman’s “Classic Nursery Rhymes” CD from our juvenile music collection. 

But the big fun comes with our picture book and beginning reader collections!  We have classics like the funny “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” by Lucille Colandro or “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” by Eileen Christelow, along with the lovely “Over in the Meadow” by Jack Ezra Keats. Favorite book character Pete the Cat is featured in both “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, and Raffi covers “The Wheels on the Bus”, “Five Little Ducks”, and “Baby Beluga” in both books and music CDs. Don’t forget that storytime favorite Laurie Berkner’s “We Are the Dinosaurs” is available as a book and CD to sing and stomp along with.

The late Eric Carle’s “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and “Today is Monday” are both beautifully illustrated and oh-so-singable for any age. For those of you who grew up with Sharon, Lois & Bram, look for their picture book “Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink”.  And, if you don’t know the song, we have several Sharon, Lois & Bram CDs to help you out!

For a new take on an old classic, turn to the wonderful Rachel Isadora.  Travel with her to Africa for “Old Mikamba Had a Farm” and “There Was a Tree”.  Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal take you to India with “The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk”. Or, closer to home, try Karen Beaumont’s colorful “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More”—a rollicking storytime favorite based on the old tune “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More”.

Four gorgeous books to introduce to your children and sing with them come straight from the 1960s and 70s. “All You Need is Love”, “With a Little Help from My Friends”, and “In My Life” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney are beautifully illustrated singable books with timeless messages. My favorite, though? Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train”. With Peter Reynolds’ illustrations, it’s easy to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this song! 

So, don’t worry if you don’t have a turntable anymore. Come see us at Ames Public Library and check out some singable books so you can pass your musical memories on!