Pairing Story With Song

Published on: 18 December 2023

BookTrust's Writer in Residence Michelle Robinson suggests ways to add singing to storytime 

There is a reason why Rhymetime is such a popular event with both youngsters and grown ups: singing and making music is joyous! 

I love including songs and rhymes when I read with children. It doesnt matter that Im not the worlds best singer. I dont need to be Im just trying to make story time more engaging. Young children can remember and join in with songs very quickly, because a catchy tune makes everything joyful and memorable. 

You can sing together before, after or even during story time. It helps warm up our voices and gives everyone the signal that story time is fun, and that everyone is welcome to speak up and be heard. Here are a few simple tips and tricks for adding a musical note to your story times 

  1. Nursery rhymes 

Theres always a relevant nursery rhyme that works with the theme of the book youre sharing. For instance, if I were reading Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, I might sing a nursery rhyme about colours, such as I Can Sing a Rainbow, or one about dogs, like B-I-N-G-O, or one about vehicles, such as, The Wheels on The Bus. I might even sing Old MacDonald, because the book features a farm. BookTrust has a wonderful list of books based on Nursery Rhymes. 

  1. Spotify it 

Theres no reason you cant pair songs from your favourite artists with story times, especially if theres a link between the lyrics and the story. Again, using Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry as an example, we might sing along with Taylor Swifts Red, to Coldplays Yellow, or the Baha Mens Who Let The Dogs Out? Id just make sure I picked child-friendly versions, not least because kids pick up and repeat lyrics very quickly. 

  1. Camp songs 

Like nursery rhymes, camp songs are a rich source of fun. They often include actions, which make for an active and energetic story time. They are designed to be super-easy to learn, perfect for story times. If you dont know many, Google them. There are tons! Theyre so simple and repetitive that you can easily adapt them to serve your own purposes. I use Lets Go Bananas when I read, The Day The Banana Went Bad. It helps kids get the wriggles out before sitting down, and helps me cue up the themes and characters in the book.  

4. Do it the Rex Harrison way 

Ever seen Doctor Dolittle or My Fair Lady? Rex Harrison barely sings his big numbers; he just talk-sings. Its my favourite way of singing, particularly when my voice is having an off-day. If in doubt, do a Rex! Have a look for some of his finest musical moments on YouTube, its a fun rabbit hole to disappear down. 

5. Discover David Gibb 

If youre on YouTube looking for Rex Harrison, stay there and check out Davids channel! David is a wonderful creator of music for young children. He has heaps of playful videos and songs that are both wholesome and genuinely great. He even wrote the singalong version of Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry in which I do my very best Rex Harrison. Other entertainers are available, of course, but Davids songs are up there with the best.  

So raise your voices and turn up the volume on your story times. Have fun! 

Read more of Michelle's blogs

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