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10 Big Ideas for Kicking Off Summer Reading with a Bang! May 1, 2017

By Shannon McClintock Miller

With the end of the school year here, we are all thinking about summer reading and how we will engage our students and families to continue reading and stay academically active throughout the summer months. This is essential and extremely important to the ongoing academic success of our students.

© Alex Ragone

According to the article Statistics on Summer Reading from Bright Hub Education…

  • Students experience significant learning loss when they do not participate in educational activities during the summer months. Research shows that students on average score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer than they do on the same tests at the end of the school year.
  • Reading just 4-5 books during the summer can prevent a decline in a child’s fall reading scores.
  • Summer reading loss is cumulative, these children do not typically catch up in the fall. Their peers are progressing with their skills while they are making up for the summer learning loss. By the end of 6th grade, children who lose reading skills during the summer are on average 2 years behind their peers.

With these statistics and what we know about summer reading, let’s kick this one off with a bang with 10 big ideas for summer reading!

  1. Work with your teachers to develop a summer reading program for your students. Collaboration will help with the success of your program.  
  2. Let your students check out as many library books as they want over the summer. I even got bags donated from publisher friends for my students to use.   
  3. Keep your school library open throughout the summer. We set up a summer library schedule before the end of the school year to share with our students and families.  
  4. Set up a summer reading program newsletter to share with families and students… and post around school and throughout your community. This can be on paper or also shared digitally with a tool such as Buncee.  
  5. Post summer reading news, tips, and events on your school library Facebook page.
  6. Games, scavenger hunts, reading puzzles, and art projects are a terrific way to get your students excited about reading in the summer. Check out this Fun Summer Reading Ideas Pinterest Board for lots of ideas!
  7. Introduce Biblionasium to your students for summer reading. They can keep track of what they reading, recommend books to friends, and write reviews using Biblionasium. My students participated in a Summer Reading Challenge that we set up in Biblionasium and it was so much fun for them as they celebrate their reading successes.
  8. Post pictures of books and eBooks to read on your school library Instagram. Encourage your students to post pictures of themselves reading too!
  9. Remind your students and families about the digital resources you have in your library collections… eBooks in Capstone Interactive, PebbleGo, Cantata Learning stories and songs—these are all ways to continue encouraging reading all summer long.
  10. Partner with your public library to make your summer reading program even better… and to participate in the summer reading programs they offer too. In our community, we partnered with our public library to develop a summer reading program together. At the end of the summer, we hosted a wonderful reading event at the public library and invited all of our students, families, and other members of the community.

© Bethany Petrik


3 Ways to Bring Poetry and Music to Your Library for National Poetry Month April 21, 2017


By Shannon McClintock Miller

Blake has the blues. Oh, Blake has the blues. The blubbering blues have him howling his tune.

As we celebrate National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world, lyrics like this filled with rhythm, rhyme, and repetition sing through the walls, bringing libraries and classrooms to life. In the article, Motivating Students Through Music and Literature, J.H. Towell states four benefits of motivating students through music and poetry including:

  • Music exposes children to rhyme, rhythm, and repetition, which are the some of the same skills needed to learn to read.
  • Because poetry has cadence, rhythm, and rhyme, music may be used to complement it.
  • Music may benefit children with learning difficulties.
  • The language of music is understood by all cultures. All cultures use music to communicate, and the sounds and rhythms of music cross cultural boundaries.

Poetry and stories combined with music are the perfect fit in developing these essential skills.

In fact, here are three ways to bring music and poetry to your library for National Poetry Month and all year long too.  

1. You can bring in different types of poems to the library through songs and stories to teach important curriculum topics. There are lots of books and other resources that can be used. One example from Cantata Learning is the Animal World: Songs About Animals Adaptations set. These are amazing animal haikus, which will take your students on an adventure to the wonderful world of animals through engaging poetry, beautiful illustrations, and playful tunes.

You can even have the students create their very own poems and songs about important topics too! In this post, 7 Ways To Teach Animal Adaptations With Books, Research, Songs, Art and Technologyyou will find even more wonderful ideas for using this series along with Capstone’s PebbleGo Animals!  

2. You can bring music and poetry to your library Makerspace through the rhythm and rhyme in My First Science Songs: STEM set with books like Technology Is All Around You! A Song For Budding ScientistsStudents will learn as they sing along that technology is anything that solves a problem.

As they are listening, singing, and learning with Cantata Learning, have them express themselves through the poetry.  They can paint, dance, draw, and build. You can set up a station where the students can make musical instruments to use in Poetry Month celebrations. Your students could even take newspapers and magazines, cutting out words that express their feelings as they listen and sing along while creating murals.  

The sky is the limit on what they create!  Here is a post and instructions on how to create musical instruments out of recycled materials with your students and use them with Cantata Learning.

3. On April 27, we celebrate Poem In Your Pocket DayOn this day, celebrate poetry by putting a poem in your pocket to share with others throughout the day. As we get ready for our annual Poem In Your Pocket Day celebration with an amazing group including authors, musicians and teacher librarians around the country, I am drawn to so many of the Cantata Learning books and songs. You can read all about our LIVE Poem In Your Pocket Day event here.  

As my sister and teacher librarian Heather Fox helped her 2nd and 3rd graders look for their poems at Amana Elementary School, she put a little twist on it this year by having them pick a line or two in one of the many Cantata Learning books they have in the library. Heather told me:

There is nothing like the Cantata Learning books!  Not only can I tie all of them into Poetry Month with the stories, my kids can also sing along while learning so much. I am going to play the music so they can sing with it during our fun Poem In Your Pocket event. It will be one we won’t forget as everyone  joins in with the rhyming and rhythm as we sing and dance along too!

As you are looking at poems for this day, look and listen for the perfect Cantata Learning stories and songs for the pockets in your library too. And don’t forget to join us for the LIVE Poem In Your Pocket Day event… I will be sharing the link for this event soon.

Blake has the blues. Oh, Blake has the blues. The blubbering blues have him howling his tune.

Remember… all of the Cantata Learning stories and songs are poems  just like Blake Has The Blues, which make them perfect in developing language and fluency for readers during National Poetry Month and any day of the year.  

And they are always so much fun!  



Hoena, Blake. (2016).  Blake Has The Blues. Cantata Learning.

Hoena, Blake. (2016). My First Science Songs: STEM Set with books like Technology Is All Around You! A Song For Budding Scientists.  Cantata Learning.  

Jimenez, Vita. (2017). Animal World: Songs About Animals Adaptations Set. Cantata Learning.

Towell, J.H. (1999). Motivating students through music and literature. The Reading Teacher, 53(4), 284–287.

The Power of Poetry April 20, 2017

by Patricia Stockland, Publisher, Cantata Learning

As an editor, an author, and a reader of poetry, I bring admitted bias to this post. But I truly believe in its power. Poetry is universal and uniting. It’s accessible to everyone, anywhere. Anyone can find it. Anyone can write it. Everyone can enjoy it.

Poetry can be playful. It can be cathartic. Poetry can open a door or a mind—or build a bridge.

When I was in elementary school, my classmates and I were required to memorize a poem every spring and recite it for the class. We did this through sixth grade. I don’t think this is a wide practice any longer, but the experience for me was transformative. I had been a shy-ish bookworm. I spent a lot of recess by myself. But these poems! The teachers had special folders full of sheets of poems. We could sort through the pieces and make our own choice of what to share with the class. I loved it. And, over time, this experience became a confidence builder for me.

Beyond teaching basic language arts skills, the genre also holds a tremendous power in social emotional learning. It’s my own speculative theory, but I believe that songs have become contemporary poetry for our children: musical poetry that can be consumed and enjoyed while in motion for so many other things that fill their busy lives. These musical poems can be enjoyed wholly or appreciated in the background of other activities. And songs can be a perfect way to begin teaching poetry—start with the music, and then look at the lyrics.

Consider that song lyrics are a poetic form of expression, a sing-able way to express so many different emotions. Like poems, songs can be funny or serious, rhyme or not, repeat or not, be quiet or loud, tell a story or just be nonsensical. These lyrical, musical, linguistic pictures can reach a child when other means may not. 

Do you have a student who is challenging to reach? Who has a difficult time expressing themselves or opening up or connecting to others? I would encourage you to try the power of poetry, either in written or musical form. Give them space to explore sounds, to find their own poem, to connect with a beautiful, often hidden-in-plain-sight art form that gives them a new way to find their own voice. The power of poetry can be amazing.

Note: April is National Poetry Month, the perfect time to introduce a young learner to the power of poetry. Not sure where to begin? Check out the Academy of American Poets’ list of 30 ways to celebrate.

Sing for Spring! Celebrating Earth Day with Music April 9, 2017

In April, everyone is keen to recognize signs of spring: tiny blades of grass, buds on trees, and warmer weather. It’s a great month to be focused on planet Earth and to gear up for a great Earth Day celebration. Cantata Learning believes that music helps foster community, and so what better way to promote Earth Day than with music?

I still remember being in elementary school when the modern concept of recycling was first introduced. Of course, the tune for “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” made it that much more helpful to remember these key steps for treating our planet well. It got stuck in our heads and made those habits something important and meaningful.

This season, Cantata Learning introduced a new set to the Me, My Friends, My Community series with Caring for Our Planet. The four titles in the set nicely illustrate how our common goals of environmentalism and sustainability are supported by simple ideas such as “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but more importantly, how participating in these behaviors makes you part of a community that cares.

Each title includes wonderful back matter that further develops the ideas presented in the song, making these books a great teaching tool for units on Earth science, biology, and habitats. Even better, there are even more fun extension activities for young learners included in our FREE lesson plan, available to download directly from our website.

Looking for even more content to share with your budding environmentalists this spring? Check out My First Science Songs, a fantastic series that explores a variety of science topics—from seasons to weather to life cycles to technology! The latest set published this spring features six new titles on plant structures, with catchy songs to teach kids about roots, leaves, seeds, and more. The detailed illustrations support this learning with cross-section diagrams and examples of different plant habitats. This series would make an inspiring introduction to a community gardening or plant life cycle unit.

As always, Cantata Learning loves to be involved in your library communities. Please share your activities and lessons with us by tagging #LoudLibraries in your social media posts!

Cantata Learning LOVES Libraries and Librarians April 6, 2017

By Shannon McClintock Miller

It is always exciting to see what celebrations are right around the corner for libraries and their communities. It is a wonderful way to tie in special events, projects, and many fantastic resources to the library and community. In April, there are several including National Poetry Month, Poem In Your Pocket Day, and Earth Day.  

Two that I am especially excited about are School Library Month and National Library Week, which is April 9–15. This is a time to celebrate our librarians and libraries and everything they bring our students, teachers, parents, and communities. With the themes being focused around transforming libraries and empowering students, these two events will bring so much to our profession, spaces, and patrons throughout this month.  

It is definitely a time to celebrate.

And Cantata Learning is celebrating too, because they LOVE librarians and all they do in their libraries!

Here are 10 ways Cantata Learning shows their love for libraries and the learning that happens there during School Library Month, National Library Week, and all throughout the year.

1. Every Cantata Learning title is an unique combination of engaging stories, beautiful illustrations, and fun songs to captivate learners of all ages.

2. The Cantata Learning stories and songs connect with different areas of the curriculum including SEL (social and emotional learning), social studies, science, math, language arts, STEM, and more!  Everyone can learn something by singing along.

3. The music is easy to access from each Cantata Learning book, and is free online. Students can scan a QR code located on the book which will take them to the music online. There is also a CD in the back of each book. This makes it easy for them to access Cantata anywhere.  

4. There are wonderfully developed lesson plans that go along with the Cantata Learning books and series. These tie in language arts and reading, but also include fantastic extensions including physical education, art, technology, math, music, and even cooking. These are great to use in the library, but act as a powerful tool for collaborative adventures with classroom teachers too. You can find the current lesson plans, or if you have a lesson plan idea, you can share it.

5. The stories and songs can be shared using the Cantata Learning Storytime Videos. Each video includes on-screen storytellers, playful illustrations, and a sing-along song.

6. Another way to access every song is through the Cantata Learning YouTube channel. This is a great tool and resource for the whole group, small groups, individual access, and sharing Cantata at home.  

7. Cantata Learning has sponsored several presentations given through webinars and conferences across the country. These presentations give you information on how to create Loud Libraries by incorporating music into your library and classroom. You will also learn how music and Cantata Learning enhances learning in so many ways. Please check out the Loud Libraries Part 1 and Part 2 webinars, along with the conference presentations.



8. Speaking of Loud Libraries, you can also find and share ideas with the #LoudLibraries hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. We love seeing what is being shared from Loud Libraries everywhere!

9. You will also find lots of ideas being shared on the Padlet, Let’s Share Our Ideas For Using Cantata Learning Books and Music In The Library, Classroom, and Home. You will find lessons, videos, photos, projects, and so many ideas for using Cantata. Please feel free to share your ideas on the Padlet here too.

10. And last but certainly not least… Cantata Learning is the perfect partner for PebbleGo, Capstone Interactive, and other products from Capstone like pivotED. You can always find a way to tie in the Cantata Learning stories and songs with the learning, exploring, researching, and creating that takes place with all of the special Capstone products.  

As you celebrate these special library events this month, make it even more memorable by checking out (and trying out!) these 10 ways Cantata Learning loves libraries and librarians. Happy School Library Month and National Library Week everyone!


Cantata Learning.  www.cantatalearning.com
School Library Month. http://www.ala.org/aasl/slm