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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Music Lessons for Read Across America

Many schools across the United States will be celebrating Read Across America the first week of March. Whether you've been strongly encouraged to do so by your administration or just want to join in the festivities, this is a great time to pull out some books to tie into music lessons! Today I want to share some of my favorite ways to bring Read Across America into the elementary music room.

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First let me make sure everyone is on the same page: Dr. Seuss is not featured in my RAA celebration, and he shouldn't be in yours either. The NEA has already completely removed Cat in the Hat, and Dr. Seuss, from their logo and theme (visit their site linked above to see their new resources), but many teachers haven't gotten the memo yet. Besides the author's overtly racist political cartoons and propaganda, a large portion of his book characters and content (including the Cat in the Hat) are demeaning and exoticising of non-white people and non-Western cultures. If this is news to you, I know it can be hard to process at first, but I encourage you to set aside your childhood memories for a moment and read this article (click here to download for free) and do a little research- there are plenty of other articles to look at to find out for yourself.

OK. Now that we've addressed that, let's talk about alternatives! Because there are so many, and actually they're way better.

Conveniently enough, March is also Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®)! So my favorite way to bring literature into my music lessons during Read Across America week is with books about music. The theme in 2019 was "All Music. All People.", and for that theme I used the book My Family Plays Music to explore different musical genres while having students play along with recordings on classroom instruments. See all the recordings I used and the full lesson plan in this post:

The 2020 theme for Music In Our Schools Month is "Music Changes Lives", and I am going to be incorporating this year's theme with the beautiful book Because. I've been trying to think of a way to bring this book into my lessons in a meaningful way ever since I found it last year, so I can't wait! To see the lesson and activities I am planning to go with this book, read this post:

For any other music teachers who, like me, used to teach "My Many Colored Days" by Dr. Seuss, I found a great alternative that my students actually like better and understand more readily: here is the lesson I do with the book Allie All Along:

There are so many great ways to use books in the elementary music classroom- these are just a few examples! I especially love using them with my younger students (K-2). They love listening to stories, and their imaginations light up when we use those stories as springboards for creative musical expression. You'll find complete lesson plans for 13 more books (and counting!) that I use throughout the school year in this post:

I know there are many more great books and lesson ideas to use them! If you don't see your favorite here, please share them in the comments below! I hope you enjoy reading with your students and discovering new books to use in your classroom.

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