This coming fall, Cantata Learning is proud to present an all-new series collaboration between Shannon McClintock Miller and musician Emily Arrow. The series, Library Skills, addresses several key ideas needed for young kids to succeed in the library and stay safe and respect one another when it comes to learning and working together in the library and online. Below, we discuss the series with the author.
- In your own words, can you tell us what the series is about?
The Library Skills series focuses on essential and important skills that take place in the library. As teacher librarians, we need to teach and support a variety of skills within our libraries such as finding books, fiction and nonfiction, staying safe online, and having manners in the library… having lots of fun along the way!
- Where, or how, did the idea for this series originate? And why is this an important topic for students?
The idea for the series originated from my own experiences as a teacher librarian in Van Meter, Iowa. I was the district teacher librarian for eight years working with 600 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
One day when I was talking with Kat Coughlan, founder of Cantata Learning, and sharing my experiences as a teacher librarian and we thought… Why not turn this into a series? We brainstormed topics and people involved, noting what has changed within libraries and education. It was really exciting to think that all of these important topics were going to be turned into stories and songs for our children to learn to. I couldn’t wait to get started.
As teacher librarians there are so many things that we teach our students and ways we support our teachers, parents, and school community.
- What was the writing process like? Did you learn anything from writing these books and what was it?
This was my debut project as an author of children’s books. It was so different from anything I worked on before. The amount of back and forth between the writer and editor, and the overall amount of time it takes was different… and exciting. I learned to start with the story I had to tell from the experience I had in the library and as a teacher librarian. That was a good place to start.
- Tell us a bit about the collaborative process. Obviously, you worked with an editor. Did you have opportunities to also work with the illustrator and music producer? What was that like, or what did you enjoy most about the experience?
As I worked on the series, I had the chance to work with all of the people involved. The editor and I worked back and forth to get the story perfect. It was fun to collaborate in a Google Doc… a lot of times at night time… as we made sure the story rhymed and made sense.
As the story was put on paper and the illustrations were created, I would come back and give comments. For example, at first the illustrator had the librarian sitting behind the desk throughout the book and the students were always sitting at tables with books. I came back and said “This isn’t how a school library looks now. It is a place of noisy collaboration, creativity, and wonderful connections. And I can’t ever remember sitting behind the desk very long.” That was one of the best parts… explaining and showing how school libraries look now.
I also worked with the music producer in recording the beginning of each book. I went to his studio in Boulder twice in fact. The first time was at night. When he listened afterwards, he could hear crickets in the background so Hagan and I went back to his studio the next week. That time it was perfect. It was really fun for my family and I to see what was involved in the recoding process of a book.
Because of the music writing process I need to know the main idea of the book in order to create the chorus, which gets written before the verses. It takes a lot of time to do this so I had to be patient. The music production and illustrations were worked on after the manuscript was written, so waiting for the book to come together was hard.
- How do you hope readers will respond to these titles? What advice do you have for educators in regards to helping bring these books to life for their students?
I am so excited to bring the Library Skills series to all of the libraries and readers. This series is filling a gap with being able to teach our children, in a fun way to music, the skills they need to know and accomplish in the library, classroom, and beyond. And the meaningful stories paired with Emily Arrow’s beautiful songs will surely be a hit and be heard from libraries around the world.
Whenever we hear educators discuss the one takeaway they wish they could instill in young learners, the topics of these four titles always make the top of the list. That’s how we know these books are going to be a boon in libraries everywhere!
Thank you Shannon for your inspired ideas and sharing your writing experience with us. We can’t wait for these books to debut in just a few short months!
You can keep up with Shannon and more news about the Library Skills series on Twitter @shannonmiller. And look for Shannon’s piece on Social Emotional Learning in the July issue of School Library Journal!
By Shannon McClintock Miller
We have heard a lot of research focused around the impact that reading to a child for at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week, can make. In fact, it has been said that our readers will be ready for school; will become successful, confident readers; will get better grades throughout school; will be more likely to succeed in life; and will have higher self-esteem and be happier as a young person and adult.
According to the article Why Read 20 from the Read 20 website, reading builds early literacy skills, listening, builds relationships, and academic performance. Plus, practice makes perfect when it comes to reading, which is supported over and over when children read for 20 minutes each day.
The stories and songs from Cantata Learning are the perfect match for bringing 20 minutes of reading to your students and into homes everyday. In fact, Cantata Learning is perfect for bringing 20 minutes of reading anywhere!
Here are 20 ways to use Cantata Learning for reading 20 minutes a day:
- Every one of the Cantata Learning books are a meaningful combination of engaging stories and fun songs which will captivate learners of all ages. Children LOVE singing as they learn, and about what they already know, and in 20 minutes several of the books can be read.
- Children also love singing nursery rhymes and familiar tunes. Cantata Learning has lots of favorites including On Top of Old Smoky and You Are My Sunshine.
- The delightful illustrations will draw readers into the stories.
- Readers will relate to the diverse collection of characters in the books.
- With the CD included in the back of each Cantata Learning book, they are easy to play when making dinner and singing together as a family.
- You can pop the CDs into your vehicle as you are driving to summer events or on summer vacation. This will keep their learning on the move all summer long.
- There are several science series from Cantata Learning such as My First Science Songs set that are perfect to tie into researching using PebbleGo Science.
- Put several Cantata Learning books in a basket for your babysitter to share on a rainy day or before resting time each day.
- The Cantata Learning story time videos are a nice way for children to be read to online. In these videos, I read the book as the illustrations come to life.
- Send a few of the Cantata Learning books along when children go to visit grandparents and other relatives. They will create special reading time with loved ones.
- Children love wearing earbuds and headphones. Make it fun for them to have their own and bring them with you to ball games and other summer events. They can get them out and listen quietly to Cantata Learning songs whenever they wish.
- You can turn reading into a dance party with Cantata Learning.
- Teach children how to play games like Ring Around the Rosie with Cantata Learning. They can get in exercise while they read.
- Listen to Cantata Learning while learning how to bake something new in the kitchen. How about reading and singing The Muffin Man when learning about baking muffins?
- While in the kitchen baking, you can also tie in measuring and math. Cantata Learning has several math titles that bring this subject to life.
- Summer time is a great time to be outside taking care of the yard, and the Cantata Learning series Me, My Friends, My Community: Caring for our Planet set would fit right into this work! It would be fun to learn to compost and recycle together by singing and reading these books.
- Before taking a walk, read and sing titles from the Tangled Tunes: On The Move set such as Red Light, Red Light, What Do You Say? This is a terrific way to read for 20 minutes while learning about safety too.
- Pick out a favorite animal and research it using the Animal World: Song About Animal Adaptations set from Cantata Learning and PebbleGo Animals. Take this one step further and have children create an animal out of craft materials or draw it on paper. They can even make their very own mixed-up animal like the ones described in this post.
- Since the music is available online, it is super easy to get to the music and play it anywhere! Readers can either scan the QR code on the book or go to the Cantata Learning website to find every song. And like I mentioned earlier, the music is available on the CD in the back of each book too.
- When working on skills over the summer such as brushing teeth and healthy eating, the Taking Care of Myself set from Cantata Learning is an awesome way to tie in reading while learning important skills. And these are songs they won’t forget! I still remember my mom singing a little song to me as I brushed my teeth every night.
As you can see, using Cantata Learning is such a meaningful way to bring 20 minutes of reading to children every day. The possibilities are endless in the difference these stories and songs will make in the lives of our readers.
Why Read 20 Minutes a Day, K12 Reader
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!
- Work with your teachers to develop a summer reading program for your students. Collaboration will help with the success of your program.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Post summer reading news, tips, and events on your school library Facebook page.
- 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!
- 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.
- Post pictures of books and eBooks to read on your school library Instagram. Encourage your students to post pictures of themselves reading too!
- 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.
- 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
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 Technology, you 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 Scientists. Students 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 Day. On 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.
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.