By LeVar Burton
In March, the Reading Rainbow APP launched its newest Island, MUSIC MOUNTAIN, in partnership with Kindermusik, the world’s largest provider of musical movement and learning classes for youngsters. Why did we choose to work together? It’s very simple. Reading and Music go hand in hand as an integral part of early childhood education and enrichment. Research shows us that when kids engage in music, they gain the phonological processing, spoken language, and comprehension skills that are the foundations of reading.
However, there are other reasons I felt it was a great addition to Reading Rainbow’s mission of developing a passion for reading in our kids. For those of us with more than one child, we immediately recognize that no two children are alike, even when they share parents and a home environment. Almost from birth they develop their own individuality. Some kids like sports, some like music, some like comics and others like science. The combinations are endless. Study after study shows us that when kids like the subject they read about, they read more. Seems like a no brainer, but it’s an important tool that parents can use with kids who struggle or are reluctant readers. When I was a kid, I loved comic books and would read them voraciously. My mother, an English teacher no less, had no problem with this. She knew that developing a passion for reading comes from reading, no matter what it is. And if I liked the subject or the format, I read. Later in life I made the transition to more complex and varied styles of literature.
Many of our younger kids are obsessed with music. They love listening to it, singing along with their favorite movie soundtracks, or dancing to whatever is on the iPod. Many take up playing instruments in elementary school. So if your child is excited about music, introduce them to books ABOUT music. It can be sing-a-long books for the younger ones, or biographies about great musicians and composers for the older ones. In the Reading Rainbow APP, there are stories like “The Music in Derrick’s Heart,” a tale about a beloved uncle teaching his young nephew how to play the harmonica while really teaching him about family togetherness and the power music has to bring people together. “The Drum Circle,” from Kindermusik, takes kids on an adventure through cultures that use different drums in varied ways that bring out their own uniqueness and cultural heritage. We even have a book called “Pythagoras and the Ratios” that uses adventure to demonstrate both math skills and music as the hero learns how to tune instruments to sound their best.
Kids who like to read become better readers. Kids who like music can use that passion to improve their reading skills and help make that transition to a “reader for life” by exposing them to literature about something they love.
But you don’t have to take my word for it.
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About LeVar Burton:
Best known for his Reading Rainbow stewardship as well as his other distinguished TV roles (most notably Kunta Kinte on Roots and Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation), LeVar Burton comes from a family of educators and is widely recognized for his lifelong advocacy of children’s literacy. He speaks passionately on the topics of early learning and technology and has been a keynote speaker at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, South by Southwest (SXSW) Edu and received the Eliot-Pearson Award for Excellence in Children’s Media from Tufts University as well as The 2013 Children’s Media Award from Common Sense Media.
About Reading Rainbow:
Respected by millions and one of the most watched children’s television series in PBS history, Reading Rainbow has been connecting families to the joy of reading for over 30 years. In 2011, famed actor/producer/educational advocate LeVar Burton and his business partner, Mark Wolfe, formed RRKidz. They hold the global rights to the Reading Rainbow brand through a partnership with series creator, WNED/Buffalo. RRKidz’s flagship product, the award-winning Reading Rainbow app, is a reading subscription service filled with a library of quality ebooks, kids videos, and educational games. New children’s books and reading activities are added every week encouraging children to “Go Anywhere, Be Anything.”
Free to try, the educational app is available on the iPad and Kindle Fire.
(Kindermusik thanks LeVar Burton for contributing this guest post on the Kindermusik Blog. We also thank LeVar and the Reading Rainbow Team for incorporating Kindermusik International into the Reading Rainbow mobile reading service and continuing to promote the benefits of music and literacy.)