Music can teach beginning readers literacy skills because it uses rhyming, rhythm and pace. Teachers use songs to teach reading. Music and poetry are companions, and many nursery rhymes are songs. Choral reading is an exercise which allows slow learners to match what they hear with the words on a page. Music, like literacy, incorporates expressions, movement and crescendo to build toward a climax.
Songs have many lyrics that rhyme. Children learn to read by seeing the same common letters. Most children learn the “Alphabet Song” in kindergarten or preschool. Other rhyming songs are Old McDonald’s Farm and Do Re Mi. Educators can use the book form to help children learn to read.
Beginners hear and connect the words using choral readings. Common uses are echo reading, leader and chorus reading, small group and large group reading. In echo reading, the leader reads the sentence or word, and the students repeat the same thing. Leader and chorus reading is for more advanced readers. With leader readings, a leader reads the first part of a poem or song, and the students read the end. With group readings, the groups alternate which part of the song or poem they read. Students need to read with clarity, good pronunciation and expression. Choral reading works best with older students, but beginners can read short poems or songs. This form of reading is easy to incorporate, and all students can enjoy it. No one student is singled out, yet all the students can benefit from each other’s reading. Students learn the correct intonation by hearing their peers and teacher read.
Movement and expression are as important in reading, as in music. Movement is about pace – how fast or slow the words flow. Expression has to do with accents and crescendo. Students learn that some words are more musical than others. Students learn how words fit together in a lyrical way. They learn the importance of sounds and feelings. Accents and crescendos reveal expression and attitude.
Examples of rhythmic poems which develop literacy
“Boa Constrictor” by Shel Silverton, “Full of the Moon” by Karla Kuskin, Eletelephony by Laura E Richards, and “Catch a Little Rhyme” by Eve Merriam, all give students a chance to add expression and movement to their reading.
Music and literacy go hand-in-hand. Music provides a non-threatening way for beginners to read. Books based on songs can help make the reading period enjoyable for the most remedial class. Students learning to read for the first time can easily grasp songs and learn to read with choral reading. Matching syllables with notes makes literacy possible.