5 Things to Know About Singing and Early Literacy

May 7, 2021 | Patty

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One of the easiest things you can do to get your child ready for reading is to sing! From the moment your child is born, they love to hear your voice.


Here are five ways singing helps build important pre-reading skills:


Singing helps your child hear the smaller sounds in words and builds their vocabulary.

Singing slows down the sounds that words make. Being able to hear and recognize the beginning, middle and ending sounds that make up words helps children sound out words when they begin to read.


Many songs rhyme, which helps your child learn that some words sound similar.

Rhyming helps teach children that some words, such as cat/mat/sat/pat/chat, have common word patterns. The more familiar they are with these patterns, the easier it will be for them to sound out the words when they see them in print. Your child will also learn to identify words that don't rhyme, such as cat and owl. Preschoolers who spend time singing and rhyming are more likely to be ready to read when they start school.


Songs can make it easier for children learn new words.

Songs introduce young children to new vocabulary and help teach many new words that children may not hear in everyday conversation. New words can also be easier to learn when rhyming, repetition and actions are part of the songs. When you repeat songs, children become familiar with them and will be able to master them from a very young age. Repetition also strengthens connections in your child's developing brain!


Singing helps children develop listening skills.

Before they can read and write, children acquire language through listening and speaking. Singing is an activity that requires listening and the ability to focus on the sounds or words that are being heard. These are both skills that are learned and singing with your little one is a fun and simple way to develop them. Songs can help your child learn to follow directions ("this is the way we wash our face, wash our face") or help develop their sense of rhythm by listening for and keeping a steady beat by clapping or tapping during a song.


Group of kindergarteners dancing

You can make singing and music part of your daily routine.

Here are some easy ways to do this:

  • Sing throughout the day and make up your own silly songs to introduce new words.
  • Recite nursery rhymes in a singsong voice.
  • Sing, instead of read, a favourite rhyming book. Watch our children's librarian Liz sing "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" in this Storytime at Home video!


  • For young babies, try rhymes that involve a gentle touch, such as patting their feet. Play with your child by making up short rhymes and poems together.
  • Sing a favourite rhyming song and ask your child to listen for the rhyme.
  • Get your child moving by dancing and singing songs that involve actions.

Children Singing


To find out about more singing activities that you can do with your child, visit our Reading for Reading website. You can also find other Things to Do for children ages five and under that help develop early literacy skills.

Ready for Reading logo - cartoon bear parent and child reading a book together inside a circle


And, while we are on the topic of music, be sure to check out our upcoming series of Saturday Junior JUNOS programs, delivered by four of 2021’s JUNO award nominees for Children's Album of the Year! These live virtual programs will feature music from ABC Singsong on May 15, Njacko Backo on May 29, and Splash’N Boots and Ginalina on June 5.

Junior JUNOS


If you would like to enjoy the music of this year's JUNOS nominees with your child, you can place a hold on the following items:

J’aime Mon École

J’aime Mon École by Njacko Backo and Kalimbas At Work


Small But Mighty

Small But Mighty by Ginalina


We also have albums by Splash’N Boots and Charlie Hope, who is also nominated for the 2021 JUNO award for Children’s Album of the Year.

If you are looking for more music to enjoy with your family, you can borrow digital children's music on Hoopla.


Picture Books That Can Be Sung

TPL has many wonderful picture books that can be sung. These are just a small sample:

Every Little Thing

Every Little Thing


Nose to Toes  You Are Yummy

Nose To Toes, You Are Yummy!


Sharon  Lois & Bram's Skinnamarink

Sharon, Lois & Bram's Skinnamarink


We've Got the Whole World In Our Hands

We've Got The Whole World In Our Hands


What a Wonderful World

What A Wonderful World


Everyday music activities for young children

If you are looking for more song and music activities to do with your child, there are some great ideas in these titles.

The Book of Simple Songs & Circles

The Book of Simple Songs & Circles


Gentle Hands

Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning


Play-Along Songs Volume 1

Play-Along Songs: Musical Activities for Children Volume 1


Play-Along Songs Volume 2

Play-Along Songs: Fun Children's Activity Songs Volume 2


Word and Music Games

Word and Music Games for Toddlers and Twos


You are your child's first and best teacher! Have fun singing with your little one and remember, don't worry about how you sound. Your child loves to hear you sing and loves to sing with you. Happy singing!