Earlier this summer, I shared that one of my tips for surviving and thriving during Summer Reading in a public library was “sing with toddlers.” While this tip was a general encouragement to find joy and delight where you can in a busy season, as a children’s librarian I was able to build this kind of program into my week this summer. The theme for many libraries in the United States for this year’s Summer Reading Program (SRP) was “Libraries Rock!” with a strong emphasis on music. To support this theme (and my own survival tip), I created a weekly summer program I called Preschool Sing-Along.
One of my main goals for this program was to have all of the preparation work finished before summer started so that every Wednesday morning all I had to do was set up the room. Time is precious during the summer and having a fully prepared program makes all the difference. I listened to many songs from my favorite artists and put together a creative playlist that I thought would work for my typical storytime audience. I used the same playlist every week to help regular attendees learn the songs and so that I didn’t have to learn new songs every week! You can find my playlist on Spotify.
Kid Music Sidebar: If it’s been your experience that music for children is annoying, twee, or just not great musically, I encourage you to take a listen to some of the music that is rocking kids’ worlds today. Musicians like Laurie Berkner, Charlie Hope, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, and Brady Rymer create and perform amazing songs that encourage and motivate kids to learn and have fun (and adults can enjoy them too). Classic and folk songs are making a comeback as well, through artists like Ella Jenkins who has an incredible catalog through Smithsonian Folkways (which fascinates me but these kinds of factoids are not a high priority for my main toddler and preschool audience).
I have a healthy collection of children’s instruments and encourage every child (and accompanying adult) to grab an instrument and participate. Children learn about rhythm and how different instruments make their own unique sounds–and it’s fun to make your own music! While the program was noisy, the kids (and their parents and grandparents!) were learning and enjoying themselves at the same time.
As with any program, I have ideas about how I’ll be able to lead this program differently next summer. Even though next year’s theme will be different, now that I have the taste of music time every week in the summer, I don’t want to give that up! The main change I would like to make next summer is the title of the program. While my aim was the preschool and toddler set, I will change the title to make it clear that all ages are invited and welcome. It was such a fun time when we had parents, grandparents, older siblings, and more that I want to encourage all age attendance in the future.
Every week was a different adventure, sometimes with regular and faithful attendees and sometimes with families who just happened by the program room. I finished every program a little tired and winded from the dancing and singing, yet at the same time I was also energized and encouraged by the songs, the atmosphere, the kids, and their families.
Noisy preschool and toddlers dance parties may not be what calms and relaxes the patrons of libraries where you serve (or you!). Nevertheless, many library settings can use music in fun programs to spark creativity and bring delight. How could you use music at a library where you work or hope to work someday?
Sarah Davis is a Bilingual Youth Librarian at a public library in Oklahoma and an MLIS student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.