One question that comes up again and again when I talk with people about storytime is the best way to include music. Recently Julie, Anna, and Kendra all wrote great posts about singing in storytime. (Special thanks to Julie, who wrote that post as a direct favor to me when I needed some help. Superstar!) [Update 3/28: Lisa has a great post on this topic, too! Update 4/10: ALSO Katy has a detailed post and lots of good thoughts!]
As it happens, I have a lot of opinions about this (are you surprised?) but also as it happens, I use both music CDs and a cappella singing in my baby storytimes. When I was first starting out with baby storytime, I borrowed a structure and basic outline from some colleagues, and have found myself sticking to it over the years. Over time I’ve experienced and heard some pros and cons for each method, so I thought I’d list them and see what you have to add.
PROS of using recorded music in storytime:
- Allows me to toss out comments to the kids as we’re moving and dancing
- Can share a greater range of music styles or melodies than my limited vocal range can support (can also share songs in languages you don’t speak)
- Introduces great artists, songs, and CDs to storytime families
- Provides support to less-confident singers
CONS of using recorded music in storytime:
- Limits me to what’s on the CD–I can’t add in verses or take suggestions from the kids
- One more prop to shuffle and manage during storytime
- Songs are often too long for storytime
Singing A Cappella
PROS of singing without a CD in storytime
- Models to parents and caregivers that they don’t need CDs to share music with their kids
- Allows you to make up any old words to a familiar tune to suit your storytime
- Can adjust performance on the fly: slower, shorter, quicker, longer, etc.
- No plugs or equipment to fail (unless you have laryngitis!)
CONS of singing without a CD in storytime
- Might not have enough breath support to project to a group a cappella
- Might not include music at all without a CD as backup
What would you add to any of these lists?
Here’s my bottom line: If someone held my out-of-print hardback copy of The Baby Goes Beep hostage and forced me to choose just one way of adding music to my storytimes, I would hand over my CDs in a heartbeat.
For me, the benefits of having the grown-ups see me embrace imperfect singing (forgetting tunes, messing up the words, having a ball belting it out regardless), and the flexibility afforded to my storytimes by singing without a CD or MP3 player, are too powerful to give up.
But I’d love to hear your experience, and hear what your bottom line is, too! Do you have recommendations for CDs that work well in storytime? How do you manage your music equipment? Do you have advice for those who are less confident going solo? Where do you learn new songs to sing? And I haven’t even talked about playing instruments in storytime! What do you play?