Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Story Time Music: On the Record

Music is a huge part of story time. Singing with kids is a great way to promote early literacy skills, and it's fun, too! In my three years as a children's librarian in DC, I used recorded music, a cappella singing, and the ukulele to incorporate music into my story time sessions. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting about my experiences using music in story time, and how these experiences have informed the decisions I make about incorporating music into my story time sessions. I begin today with my reflections on recorded music.

I had actually never even thought of using recorded music in story time until I started my job in DC. All the nursery school teachers and children's librarians I knew did all their own singing. But my very first day in my library branch, someone else was still covering the story time, and every song she used in the session I observed came from a CD. I immediately adjusted my expectations. "Oh," I thought. "I'm supposed to use recordings." For the first several months of story time, that's what I did. Here are some of the advantages of recorded music that I discovered during this time.
  • I could use songs I didn't know well, or for which I didn't know all the words, because the recorded singer could do most of the singing for me.
  • I could comment on the kids' actions during songs because again, the song could go on whether I was singing or not.
  • If I had laryngitis (which I did once), or just didn't feel like singing, I could still incorporate music into story time.
  • I could take time to get used to my story time audience without the added anxiety of also singing in front of a group.
  • The recordings included instrumentation that would have been missing from an a cappella performance, and which exposed kids to different beats and rhythms I might not be able to replicate on my own.
  • I could promote CDs from my collection at story time and encourage folks to check them out.
Though I enjoyed story time from the get-go, as the months went on, I became more and more comfortable being "on stage." As I started to think more critically about my story time performances, I began to see the drawbacks of relying solely on recorded music.
  • I was stuck with what was available in my collection, and with whatever verses were used by the recording artist.
  • If the CD player was accidentally unplugged during story time, everything derailed rather quickly. (I also tried using an iPod, but that was even worse, as our speakers were forever turning themselves off mid-song.)
  • I couldn't necessarily cut a song short if the kids were getting restless.
  • The transition from book to song was cumbersome because I had to find the correct CD, correct track, etc.
  • The adults in my audience began to carry on personal conversations the second I pressed the play button for a song.
After about a year of relying pretty heavily on recorded music, I decided it was time for a change and I began doing all my story times without any CDs or MP3s on hand. Next week, I'll talk about the new joys and challenges I faced when I decided to sing all on my own.
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