Music: An Important Component of Early Literacy

Music: An Important Component of Early Literacy

by Ben Schrag

If you know me, you know I love to write songs. (Technically speaking, I’m an award-winning songwriter. Though, to be sure, receiving commendations for songwriting from an educational theatre organization, however prestigious, feels a bit like little like winning “best dressed” at a swimming meet!)

I’ve been writing, singing, and playing in Iowa for years and have enjoyed playing at everything from Ames Main Street shops to the Des Moines Arts Festival. But one of my favorite gigs is getting to sing and play for toddlers at the Ames Public Library.

I’m one of several staff who get to provide programming for the very youngest patrons, and love getting to play live music as part of the Toddler Storytime. This, naturally, gives my Storytime an extra emphasis on music and movement.

Understandably, some might not immediately connect music and movement to the development of young readers. After all, other Storytime elements like books and felt boards are much more recognizably educational. Of course, this is not the whole story. We know that the 5 pillars of early literacy are not just reading and writing, but also talking, playing, and singing.

For future readers, singing does some great things. It helps highlight language by helping children focus on many of the smaller sounds in words. Syncing words to rhythm also helps highlight those smaller parts of language – including, many times, literally spelling out whole words. And movement matters! Pairing motions, gestures, or even elements of sign language with a song or a rhyme makes all sorts of developmental connections in the brain, building our motor skills, memory, and social skills through repeated exposure and practice.

Singing can also offer a lot in terms of vocabulary and concepts, too. Songs, like books, introduce many new words and ideas to our developing brains. And, just like books, songs can tell stories with beginnings, middles, and ends all their own.

And, of course, it’s just plain fun to play together and move your body around!! Whatever songs we do, we always finish up our Storytime with a chance to sing and dance with the aid of colorful scarves, egg shakers, jingle bells, rhythm sticks or other fun extras. 

Whether you are a young reader-to-be or a lifelong lover of books, you should hop on over the Ames Public Library and enjoy the musical and educational experience of our storytimes!