Picture books are a staple for young readers. They’re engaging and provide a multi-sensory reading experience for students. Children have an opportunity to hear the story and see illustrations. And not only that but they determine how the pictures and words interact with one another. Lastly, they have many benefits in preparing fluent readers. How so? By promoting the development of story sense, phonemic awareness, comprehension, fluency, pattern, rhythm, and rhyme.
Music and song also help promote many of these same skills in our young students, making picture books and music a beautiful pair. Children instinctively try to identify patterns in melodies and rhythms in song. Readers do the same, looking for patterns and rhyme in words. The rhythmic nature of singing gives students an opportunity to focus of sounds of speech. This means it is also beneficial for phonemic awareness and phonics. Music, with its inherent pattern, rhythm, and rhyme, are a natural fit to help enhance a story to promote reading skills in our students.
Pattern and Repetition
Pattern and repetition are characteristic of the picture books our young readers enjoy. Students are drawn in when they can anticipate a forthcoming line in a book, improving comprehension and fluency. One of my favorite ways to integrate music with picture books capitalizes on this pattern and repetition. Have students find patterns in the book, and use those patterns to create musical cues to turn the reading experience into a sound story. Students might create a sound story using instrumentation or sound effects. You might also pair a book up with a song students are learning that is somehow related to the story. Using this song, you may create patterned cues for performing that song through the story. It’s a great way to provide students practice in a song or musical concept that doesn’t feel like practice, but rather, feels like part of telling a story.
The pattern and repetition of picture books and of song are natural avenues to fluency for our young readers. As much as you can have students “sing a story,” the more naturally and fluently the word patterns will become. Song, with is much more rhythmic than spoken word, lends itself to the word pattern of many picture books. If you can find a picture book that is a singable one (check out this list for some great singable titles), students can engage in the pattern, rhythm and rhyme of the words on the page to promote fluency in reading the lyrics.
You might have students assign a familiar tune to the words of a book and sing the story. This allows students to break down the parts of words and phrases to make rhythmic sense. Or you might use the lyrics of a song or the rhythmic words of a picture book as a choral reading experience to increase fluency.
In addition to the benefits of pattern and repetition, rhythm and rhyme, the combination of picture books and music is engaging! It gives students another medium with which to interact with a book, increasing the number of students whose specific learning style will be met and increasing retention and engagement. Students are more likely to learn, to be intrinsically motivated when they are excited about what they’re doing. The arts are a natural place to leverage our students’ inherent enthusiasm, curiosity, and creativity to foster learning.