Music and Literacy

April 30, 2015 | Charlene Lee

Comments (1)

May 1-10 marks the 33rd annual Canadian Music Week (CMW). With ten nights of performances, conferences, film and comedy festivals, and over one thousand participating bands, it is one of the largest music conventions worldwide.

Although CMW focuses on the business of music and innovations in music making, it's a good reminder of the importance of music and the role it can play in early literacy and learning. Singing songs and nursery rhymes are a great supplement for any child learning to read; they allow children to interact with language and vocabulary in a fun way, and encourage essential pre-literacy skills and imagination in young learners.

Kid Listening to Music

Photo courtesy of garageolimpo on a CC license

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) conducts programs and services under our Ready for Reading strategy for children five years and under. This ensures that individual library programs, services, and materials for this age group help lay the foundation for a love of reading and lifelong learning. Ready for Reading also focuses on the skills needed for literacy success and how parents and caregivers can help foster these skills. 

One important skill for young learners to develop is being able to hear words and recognize the smaller sounds within words; this will help readers with pronunciation when learning to read. Being able to differentiate the sounds that make up words is known as 'phonological awareness', which is discussed in the TPL's Ready for Reading guide. The repetition and rhyming in songs and rhymes build an awareness of the sounds of words and can also help strengthen a child's vocabulary.

Don't worry about your musical skills! Even the most tone-deaf can encourage learning through music and singing, and this can be done anytime and anyplace! TPL has lots of great resources to help your child develop their phonological awareness, as well as a range of programs to help foster a love of reading and learning. Check out your local branch for Ready for Reading programs and storytimes!

  Apples & bananas a wiggly collection of nursery rhymes   Mother Goose rocks. Volume 5   Sally go round the moon quiet songs and lullabies from the Parent-Child Mother Goose Program

  Rhyming dust bunnies   Shh! My brother's napping   Look!

Quick tips on building phonological awareness

  • Choose books and songs with lots of repetition and rhyming
  • Sing with your child, they love hearing your voice
  • Singing the same songs allows your child to become familiar with them
  • Choose songs that you enjoy as well
  • Talk! Even if they aren't talking yet, your child is listening and learning