Connecting Music and Literacy By Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

Music is an integral part of a quality early childhood curriculum. It plays a role in the following:  

In setting the tone of the classroom in developing skills and concepts. 
In helping children make transitions. 
In building a sense of community. 

Of course, if you ask the children, they will tell you singing is part of their daily activities because it's just plain fun! 

The Push for Early Literacy Skills 

In recent years there has been strong national focus on early literacy.  We have begun to examine and define the val

uable role singing songs and reciting chants and rhymes play in laying the foundation for reading readiness. We know, for example, that singing songs and reciting chants and rhymes help build vocabulary and develop sound discrimination. The size of a child's vocabulary (oral language) and his or her skill in being able to discriminate sounds (phonological awareness) are strong predictors of how easily a child will learn to read when exposed to formal instruction. But oral language and phonological awareness are not the only skills that are developed when children are exposed to songs, chants, and rhyme.  Both activities also help develop listening and comprehension skills. With conscious effort we can use them to provide opportunities for children to develop letter knowledge and recognition and to become familiar with the conventions of print. 

Song, Chants and Rhymes as a Springboard to Literacy 

Song, chants, and rhymes can be used to develop every aspect of reading readiness.  In order for children to become avid readers they must have mastery of the skills (mechanics), but they must also have the desire to read (disposition). Disposition grows from positive experiences. Singing songs and reciting chants and rhymes provide a natural way to build the development of skills while ensuring the acquisition of disposition.Using songs, chants and rhymes as a springboard to literacy simply requires being a little more mindful of opportunities and a little more aware of which literacy skills young children are capable of mastering. We would never want to dissect a song so much that we loose the joy of the song.  However, calling attention to the rhyming words in Itsy Bitsy Spider or the alliteration in “Miss Mary Mack” will go a long way in helping children focus on the sounds and structure of language—it will help children develop literacy skills within a meaningful and enjoyable context.