Before children learn to read, first they must hear the words. It’s developmental, like learning to crawl before learning to walk. The auditory piece, including singing, hits both the brain and the soul in learning. In my preschool class, reading aloud is a top priority, so I constantly read picture books and also chapter books. I use a ‘voice’, stop all the time to ask questions, and often the story takes a very different turn. We have pretty deep and serious discussions as a class, because we love reading.
Every day before chapter reading I recite Goodnight Moon. The children love it for two reasons; they know that chapter reading is next, and they feel connected to the words in the book. I recite the story, all the words, and they have no pictures to see (just like chapter reading.) Over the course of the year, I have changed the words to incorporate the names of the children. “And Tommy’s red balloon, and a picture of Sarah jumping over the moon…”. This has been hugely successful. The children think it is so much fun, but I realize that there is a bigger connection with the language they are hearing. I have taken a story they love, recited with no pictures, and changed the text. That means changing your brain, and children do that so well.
It gets more complicated, or perhaps I should say more simple. Reciting Goodnight Moon then naturally flowed into singing. It was already a story with a rhyme, and it already had children’s names as part of the rhyme. So, I sang Goodnight Moon. It didn’t matter what the tune was. The important part was singing, as that brought ‘life’ into the words. I occasionally changed the ‘beat’ as well, clapping or tapping my foot.
It is close to the end of the school year, and children have heard me read aloud Goodnight Moon for months. Now, they join me, and we recite the words together. The Helper of the Day can stand with me and recite the book alone. That is a big deal!
Teachers naturally address visual learners. Whether it is a classroom chart or writing on the board, the majority of information for children is often visual. If we address the auditory learners through singing, rhyming, and chanting, we are crystallizing language. And, it is fun! So, I now sing poetry, stories and rhymes whenever I can. The children love it, and it works. Goodnight Moon is proof.