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Adventures in early literacy

Meet the Music!


What seems like an eternity ago, Angie had this fabulous idea to hold a program called Meet the Music. It would be a chance to share some of those gorgeous picture book biographies that so often are forgotten in the black hole that is the biography section. I just loved the idea SO much as a huge music and picture book biography lover so I just stole that idea right away. Angie has a fabulous post about this and rather than duplicate what she has done there, I’m just going to share what I did and a little about some things I’d change next time.


I did three programs over the summer. I really wanted to have local musicians come in and talk to the kids and show off their instruments but this proved much harder to do than I imagined. In Vancouver there was never a shortage of community members anxious to visit storytimes or whatever. Not the case here so far. I contacted the local college and university music departments and was not only told that they couldn’t help me but was almost rudely told so. In a “you really think our students would want to do that over the summer?” way. Again, this is a first for me. Our local community band was super helpful and the director asked band members this spring and again closer to the summer once my dates were firm. I had one person respond. Which YAY!! And then she flaked out and didn’t show up. Despite an email reminder to which she replied, saying she was looking forward to it. Anyway, though a little deflated about all this, all in all, I call all three programs a success. Patrons left with books and instruments and lots of conversation. I hope they will be inspired to listen to some music they might not have previously. I tried to make it easy by packaging books with a CD. Most the books went, but they left most of the CDs behind.


Highlight of the series: A mom thanked me after the second program for putting these on, especially as a mom of daughters. She found them to be inspiring for her and her girls and appreciated my emphasis on “girl power.”




Program 1: Percussion

Read: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López. Such an inspiring story and the kids were amazed that a girl would not be allowed to play drums. One girl said “But girls can do everything boys can.” Yes, indeed, my friend (and props to her parents!), but not everyone feels that way still and they certainly did not a long time ago.


Song: Ram Sam Sam. Our bodies can be instruments, too!


Listen and Watch: Video clips of great drummers Tony Williams, Phil Collins and Chester Thompson duet, Buddy Rich, Clyde Stubblefield, and Sheila Escovedo. Clips all found here. I left the laptop up with specific videos up on tabs so they could watch after we broke for the activity.


Activity: Make a drum (or drum set!), or a shaker. #librarianfail I did not get pictures of this. One girl made an entire drum set. Everyone had a blast with this and spent way more time than I imagined they would. They were only given recycled materials, beans and rice for shaker filler, stickers and markers for decorating, rubber bands and tape for creating kits and sealing lids.


Activity: play with drums. I set out a few small drums and drum tambourines, plus other objects that make great drums: large boxes, bins, large tin cans. They went to town.



Program 2: Winds


Read: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russel-Brown, Illustrated by Frank Morrison. This book was too long for the young crowd in attendance so I clipped some pages together and stopped just as Melba is beginning to be discouraged as an adult. They would just have to keep reading to find out whether she kept it up. And they did! In fact, there was a little squabble over it!

Read and Listen: What a Wonderful World, Illustrated by Tim Hopgood, as sung by Louis Armstrong. For this I played Louis singing the song while I turned the pages and sang along. I encouraged everyone else to sing a long to if they knew the song (most did) and it was lovely.

Listen and Watch: We don’town any Melba Liston music in my library so I turned to YouTube. It worked out well, actually because they all really liked seeing what she looked like in real life.


Discussion: What is a wind instrument? What does wind sound like? Can you whistle? That’s making sound with your wind! What are some other wind instruments? One girl guessed flute right away, good for her!


Activity: Make a straw flute. Cut straws different lengths and tap them together to create a pipe flute. They really enjoyed experimenting with making different pitches with the different lengths of straws.



Program 3: Strings

Read: Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum by Robert Andrew Parker. Again, this one is a little longer so I didn’t read the whole thing. The great thing about this story, though, is it lends itself well to paraphrasing and interaction-he played in a bar when he was a kid?! Lol, the things that amaze them.


Listen and Watch: Art Tatum was playing in the background as they came in and continued during the activity. I showed them a clip of Lindsey Stirling from America’s Got Talent and talked about how playing an instrument like piano or fiddle or whatever does not mean you have to play classical music.


Activity: Make a Guitar. Recycled materials, rubber bands, tape, scissors, and stickers for decorating.

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Activity: Mini instrument petting zoo. I brought in my keyboard and ukulele and a coworker generously loaned her guitar for the program. They LOVED this part, of course. My keyboard has so many random songs recorded on it now. So awesome.

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Author: Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

2 thoughts on “Meet the Music!

  1. I have planned three sessions of Meet the Music for this summer and am still working out the specific details/plans, so this is great! I’m curious what age you marketed yours for and what ages came?

    • Hi Sarah! I marketed these for all ages and made sure the activities would be interesting enough for school age kids but that preschoolers could participate in some way, as well. For example, I read Drum Dream Girl which is appropriate for prek, but I was able to generate a little discussion with the older kids. We had a good mix of ages from about 3 up to 10ish. The younger kids were almost exclusively younger siblings. Hope that helps!

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