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Using Music to Tune In On Social Emotional Learning June 29, 2017

Cantata Learning is so excited to debut a very special fall new series, Library Skills, that explores essential learning skills, supports social emotional learning, and correlates with multiple standards including ISTE, Future Ready, and 21st Century Learning—thanks in part to guidance from Shannon McClintock Miller. 

In celebration of this series, we once again collaborated with Shannon on an informational advertisement in the July 2017 issue of School Library Journal. It explores social emotional learning and music, and we are pleased to share this wonderful piece with you here. It will also be available soon on our site as a downloadable PDF in our Resources section. Enjoy!


Using Music to TUNE In On Social Emotional Learning
by Shannon McClintock Miller with Cantata Learning

Social emotional learning (SEL) is a hot topic these days. Most educators would agree that SEL is important, after all, it encompasses the skills we all need to master in order to succeed in life. CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) further asserts that self-regulation develops rapidly in the early years and is critical in predicting overall educational success. No argument there! When it comes to incorporating SEL into young childrens’ education, music can give educators a clear advantage, and it can be fun for everyone to use this easy, engaging, and meaningful teaching tool.

Practice Makes Perfect
Learning—and applying—the essential social emotional skills we all need actually takes a LOT of practice. Many adults are still developing them! Kids need ample opportunities to learn and practice these skills in order to master them. That’s why it’s so vital for educators to be aware of incorporating SEL into their classrooms and curriculum on a regular basis. Music is one of the best (and most fun!) ways to do this.

Music Is the Key
From our earliest days, we learn and grow with music as we learn songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the ABCs. Scientists believe these musical interactions facilitate some of the brain’s earliest neural connections, laying the foundation for positive social emotional learning. Beyond infancy, music in the classroom has the ability to fully activate (light up) the brain, which allows for more engaged learning. When children’s brains are fully engaged, they are able to focus more, comprehend more, and retain and recall more. Learning—whatever the topic—becomes much more meaningful and impactful when incorporating music.

How Cantata Learning Can Help
This is why Cantata Learning is so passionate about creating books that incorporate music. These books are beautifully illustrated nonfiction titles for early elementary children. The stories cover the gamut of PreK-3 curriculum topics, and can be especially useful in ELL and special needs classrooms. They are well researched and well written. They include reading tips for parents as well as critical thinking questions and free lesson plans with extension activities for educators. But truly the best part is that every story is a song! Cantata Learning titles include amazing musical tracks to accompany the stories. Using these titles in your classroom or library not only helps to support the curriculum and engage deeper learning, but it also seamlessly creates fun opportunities for practicing SEL skills.

Research frequently indicates that music is a supportive tool for learning SEL. Click To Tweet

Learning In Harmony
In the classroom, engaging in a musical activity with others affords many opportunities for practicing SEL, which researchers note helps to build greater group cohesion, cooperation, and prosocial behavior. To me, incorporating Cantata Learning titles into that learning time is a no-brainer. Here are just a few of the ways these music-inclusive books can support SEL learning:

• Practicing musical skills such as rhythm, rhyme, starting, stopping, and anticipating all help to exercise components of self-regulation.

• Listening to a story read or sung out loud can help early readers build linguistic fluency and confidence.

• The act of making music with someone else requires students to practice active listening. This sets them up for communicating ideas of their own and in turn responding to their peers’ ideas.

• Singing together fosters a positive, open atmosphere where children seek to learn new things, respect diversity, and build connections with others.

Learning Out Loud In the Library
Nowadays, the library is often a busy, fun, and sometimes noisy collective learning space. It’s full of MANY ways for children to access learning. But it’s also important to acknowledge that more access also means more responsibility. Whether it’s believing fake news, experiencing cyber bullying, sharing sensitive information, or worse, where there is the Internet, pitfalls abound. The good news is that protecting our kids isn’t impossible. With education that includes practical knowledge and social emotional learning practice, our kids can develop the self-regulation and wherewithal to make responsible decisions when they are online.

Stay safe online by being smart.
Think with your head and with your heart.
Think with your heart. Stay safe online.
Don’t share too much. Only post what’s kind.
— lyrics from Staying Safe Online

On That Note
Because we already know that music is such an effective way to help kids remember and recall, it made perfect sense to create a series with Cantata Learning that will help kids stay safe and succeed in the library. Each book presents an essential library skill, set to catchy music that will make learning in the library something kids want to do! I invite you to check out the series now by visiting cantatalearning.com and searching for Library Skills. You’ll even be able to listen to each song! And stay tuned—Cantata Learning will be sharing more soon on SEL and ways to encourage student success all year long.

Library Skills: Author Interview with Shannon Miller June 22, 2017

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.

  1. 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!  

  1. 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.  

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!


Summer Reading: 20 Ways to Read 20 Minutes a Day June 4, 2017

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:

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.
  3. The delightful illustrations will draw readers into the stories.  
  4. Readers will relate to the diverse collection of characters in the books.  
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Put several Cantata Learning books in a basket for your babysitter to share on a rainy day or before resting time each day.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.  
  11. 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.  
  12. You can turn reading into a dance party with Cantata Learning.  
  13. Teach children how to play games like Ring Around the Rosie with Cantata Learning.  They can get in exercise while they read.  
  14. 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?
  15. 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.  
  16. 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.  
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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

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.