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5 Summer Strategies for Families to Rock & Read May 27, 2018


Contributed by Shannon McClintock Miller


As we are getting ready for the summer months ahead, we have the opportunity to arm our students with wonderful resources and tools that will prevent the summer slide and keep them reading, learning, and creating. Here are five meaningful and engaging ways to use your favorite Cantata Learning stories and songs… and a little PebbleGo, too!  



• Learn and practice coding together

Students love to code, and this is one skill that we want to make sure our students keep learning about and practicing all year long. With Cantata Learning’s Code It! series, this is something they can learn with their families as they sing along to these four amazing songs. You can sing them at home, outside, on the way to summer camp or a ballgame, and even on vacation.



• Investigate the weather

During the school year, classrooms and libraries track the weather and discuss it every day. Weather is important to talk about at home as well. We want our children to be knowledgeable about the different types of weather, storms, and temperatures, and to become aware of weather around the world.  


Two important weather topics for our younger students are clouds and precipitation. Cantata Learning has a beautiful series called Water All Around Us that includes titles What Kind of Clouds and Types of Precipitation. Not only can families sing and read about the various clouds and precipitation, but they could keep a weather journal, observe the weather and discuss it each day, or even compare similarities and differences with family and friends living in different parts of the country or world.



With its extensive topics about all kinds of weather, the PebbleGo Science database will help kids do their research and discover even more about weather. Parents can even print off the Activity Sheets that come along with each PebbleGo article to create a journal as they learn about lots of different weather topics throughout the summer.  


• Make a story after visiting a zoo or farm

Children love animals. There are wonderful opportunities for learning when visiting zoos and farms. The Classic Fables in Rhyme and Rhythm stories and songs brings different animals to life through graphic style action-packed illustrations telling the stories’ important morals.



The Lion and the Mouse and The Fox and the Grapes are two that children will love singing this summer while finding a lion or fox at the zoo. They can even learn more about them while researching lion, fox and other animals in PebbleGo Animals or Animales.  


After the visit, have them create their own story with paper and art supplies or in the digital storytelling tool, Buncee. They can use the animal stickers and zoo, farm or wildlife backgrounds to create a wonderful digital story to enjoy, read and share. They can even record themselves singing and reading one of the Cantata Learning stories right inside of their Buncee.


• Celebrate special events

It is fun to focus on special events with children. There are two big events each summer, not to mention lots of town and state celebrations. The Holidays in Rhythm and Rhyme series includes stories and songs about the two summer holidays, Memorial Day and Fourth of July. They can sing along to the songs on these special days and share them with family and friends. The songs and stories can become part of these annual events.



Fourth of July and Memorial Day can also be found on PebbleGo.  


• Access Capstone Interactive for FREE All Summer Long

Our friends at Capstone have a very special summer reading opportunity for all students and families. They have made thousands of their eBooks free in Capstone Interactive, including all Cantata Learning titles. Students will be able to read and sing along at home and on-the-go.




You can sign up for this wonderful summer reading opportunity here.  


Enjoy the summer, friends.  I can’t wait to hear stories about your students singing along as they learn, create, and read all summer long!  


Five Ways to Beat the Summer Slide April 17, 2018

Contributed by Julie Strahan, MA, elementary school music teacher

As the days get longer and the spring sports begin, we all know summer is approaching quickly. And with it, the dreaded “summer slide” where children lose important information learned in school during the summer months.

It is hard to imagine a slide when your elated 6-10 year old gets off the bus on the last day of school. With intentional decisions, this time of relaxation and respite can still produce students who are ready to succeed in the fall without delays.




When my children were small, we knew many homeschooling families, and many who sent their children to private schools. I felt I had to justify my selection of an inner-city public school. However, “schooling” for the Strahan kids didn’t end at the doors of our inner-city magnet. Rather, I “all-schooled” my kids, especially in the summer! In addition to our weekly library visits and our read-aloud books at dinner, we went on “field trips” to museums, zoos, and historical sites—as intentional learning experiences.

Most importantly, our summers included the “20/20/20.” This was a daily calendar Monday–Thursday (Friday was field trip day) of 20 minutes of reading, 20 minutes of math, and 20 minutes of instrument playing. While anecdotal, I rarely saw a slip in scores from spring to fall for my children—and I did watch. My children performed well on standardized testing and in academic writing because they had many experiences and gained first hand knowledge of many different things.


Here are five things parents can do all the time, but especially during the summer, to augment learning:


1. Visit the library often, but be prepared.
Read reviews of children’s books that your children might enjoy and either request them or ask the library to order them. Get kids hooked on historical fiction that they love. Use the library’s interlibrary loan system to receive additional books.


While you’re there, sign up for the summer reading program at the library AND at local bookstores. Barnes & Noble gives away free books each year in their reading program.

2. Join the local zoo, or science museum, or history society.
Most of these memberships are reciprocal and will work in other cities and states – providing a free experience when you’re at the baseball tournament out of town. Free passes to some locations are available at the children’s library table—ask!

3. Find a favorite recipe from scratch.
Double or half the recipe and write out the math so the ingredients are correct. Figure out how much it costs to make a boxed cake mix (including 1/12 of a dozen eggs, etc.) versus buying something pre-made or baking without a box. Or make glurch or slime—make more than one variety and compare and contrast the consistency. Revise and try again!

4. Download free educational apps that kids can play as a reward for completing their jobs.
See if your school has a summer subscription to Dreambox or other game-based math and reading practice.

5. Invest in the print variety of a local newspaper, at least on Sundays.
There are comics to read and recreate, word puzzles, crosswords, book reviews, recipes, stories about travel, sports box scores, blueprints of houses, the exchange rates in other countries, and calendars of free and interesting events for the coming week.

We did a lot of cool stuff that we learned this way —the day there was a GI Joe drop from the top of the Federal Reserve bank was certainly memorable. If you read, discussed, and researched all of the items in the Sunday edition, it would take you at least a week to finish!


If you still feel like you don’t have good ideas for what to do, or you have limited resources where you live, why not give Cantata Learning a try? Here’s how ONE Cantata Learning book can provide A WEEK’S WORTH of summer learning adventures:

First, read Engineers Solve Problems: A Song for Budding Scientists out loud and sing the song. Then, read the glossary and talk about the guided reading activities. Now you’re ready to try out the following five ideas:

1. Research what engineers do and what kinds of engineers there are.
Do you know any engineers? Have your children interview them and write a “Breaking News” story about what they do. Make a green screen and read the interview like you are a reporter on the news. Video record the interview so you can watch it again later!


2. Think of all of the ways you could use the word “improve” and find a way to work it into conversation.
That word is in advertising often—make sure to point it out and talk about what the “improvement” is in the product. Think of what the opposite of “improve” would be and find ways to use that word too.

3. Draw a picture of something you would like to build.
What will it do? Does it solve a problem we would have if it weren’t around? Go through the recycling bin and find materials that can be used to create something. Revise and improve your drawing so that your building could be recreated by someone else. Measure your creation and decide the “scale” it would need to be in order to work in real life.

4. Drive through a city or farm and look at the buildings that have been designed and built.
Sketch one or more of these buildings and recreate it at home using Legos or K’nex or wood blocks. Compare your final product with the actual building.


5. Listen to the book’s song many times until you can sing it without reading the words.
Think of how you could “improve” the song to talk about your own design process. Change the words and write them down. Sing or rap them along with the instrumental accompaniment. Once you have practiced a few times, record your new words with the instrumental to show your new song. You could even send it to the author and publisher!


Good luck, and don’t worry! Even small efforts help to grow your precious children in new and exciting ways!


About the author: Julie Strahan is a mother to 3 young adult children. She and her husband, Frank, live in Minneapolis, MN with their yellow lab, Scout. She now teaches K-5 music in a public school.


Cultural Expression Through Music March 20, 2018


Contributed by Elizabeth Draper, Cantata Learning Music Director


Music is a huge component of cultural expression and cultural identity. People and music have been intertwined since the dawn of human evolution. There is evidence that suggests even neanderthals played early forms of musical instruments such as flutes—not just drums and sticks as one might assume. Music serves many functions and needs. It provides various forms of communication, religious and spiritual worship, artistic expression, and community celebration.



When creating music for Cantata Learning books, we strive to represent many different genres, feels, and sounds that stem from a variety of different cultures. And it is important that our producers and recording artists are knowledgeable and authentic in the sound they are creating. I work with a team of extremely talented producers and engineers, who each have their own specialties, as well as a network of recording artists who each have their own strengths and musical and cultural backgrounds.


If I want a song to have a Hip Hop feel, I know I will reach out to a producer who is involved in that culture and community. If I want something with a Central American rhythm, I will reach out to someone with that background. You get the idea.


Even though basically nothing exists within an isolated bubble, there is still a wormhole of knowledge and history associated with any genre or style of music. By making sure the producers we work with have spent time educating and surrounding themselves within the context of the genre they are composing, I am able to ensure a more authentic sound to each Cantata song.


Exposure to a variety of musical styles and genres is an important element of any child’s education and upbringing. Cantata’s songs can be an excellent way to introduce cultural and geographical topics for discussion.



A song with flavors of North and West African influences such as The Swift Gazelle Can Run Quite Well: Grassland Animals, can introduce a discussion about the people who live in various grassland regions all over the globe. An Americana song such as Earth Day features a fiddle player whose style was heavily influenced by Appalachian musical traditions. Music that evolved in Appalachia stemmed from a combination of West African and European (primarily Irish) music evolving together. The song Earth’s Record Breakers has a strong Afro-Caribbean influence. This is a broad term used for musical styles in the Caribbean originating from West and Central African people who were brought to the Caribbean as slaves. More specifically, there are elements of Garifuna music in this song which can lead to many different topics of cultural and geographical discussion.


Music is constantly evolving, and these days, probably more than ever before. Living in the communication age, it’s almost impossible to live within complete isolation without external influence. This became very apparent to me when visiting a remote Karen village in northwestern Thailand. I met a young boy there who was playing a Western guitar and singing a Pink Floyd song in English although he barely spoke English.


You need not even leave your seat to hear a Norwegian band playing Hawaiian music on African/Asian marimbas. Although it pales in comparison to travel and real life experiences, the sounds from around the whole world are just a few clicks away.


With a book in hand, it doesn’t take much to discover more about the musical and cultural roots of a song. Start by Googling the genre. Read articles about key musicians, instruments, and songs. Watch YouTube videos. Talk about the history. Visit the library and check out more books on the topics you discovered.



I always strive to be relevant and honest when creating new music for Cantata. I believe this musical integrity will serve as a window to a variety of different sounds and cultural influence for students who explore our books. It’s my hope that in this way, Cantata Learning will not only support kids’ interest in reading, but toward further musical and cultural exploration as well.

Connecting To Voices Around The World Through Books and Music February 27, 2018


contributed by Shannon McClintock Miller


Music and Books Bring Us Together

A few weeks ago, my family and I traveled to Chennai, India, for the ECIS Librarian Conference at the American International School of Chennai. There were librarians from over 50 countries at the conference. It was wonderful being able to connect and learn with everyone. These new friendships brought so much meaning to our trip as we learned about different places around the world.

As part of our learning experience, we visited the American International School of Chennai where my friend Jeremy Willette (@libraryjet) is the Director of Library Service at the American International School of Chennai.



When Hagan and I walked into the elementary library, we were greeted by tables labeled with different languages from around the world including Russian, Hindi, Arabic, German, and many more. On the top of each table were books the librarians had brought from around the world. They were getting ready for the International Book Swap!


We enjoyed walking around the tables with the other international librarians, looking at books books we had never seen as well as ones that looked the same as books at home except for the different languages they were in. The visiting librarians were all very happy to participate and take books from other places back to their libraries.


Cantata Learning at AISC

As we were walking around the library, we realized the library had an entire section of Cantata Learning! I was so excited to see all of these books all the way across the world in this special place in India. I was now even more excited to leave behind copies of the Library Skills series that I wrote with Cantata Learning and Emily Arrow. I just know they are going to love singing as they learn how to find a book and the other helpful lessons in this series!



Jeremy and I found a chance to talk about the beautiful and diverse collection within his library, including the Cantata Learning stories and songs. He shared how they serve students from over 30 countries. Wow!


I also learned the largest languages there in terms of what students speak are Korean, Japanese, and French. The library has books in over 50 languages plus the actual language section. Their language section makes up 11% of the collection but 24.9% of total check-outs!


When I asked him specifically about his Cantata Learning collection, he said:

Students love our Cantata books and they get great circulation!

The fact that students can access the music of the books in multiple formats is a huge plus. They can use the QR code, visit the website, or play the CD.

The delightful melodies and attractive illustrations are a big hit with our younger readers. The sound-to-text possibilities are also very useful for our young students who are learning to read, both for native English and non-native English speakers alike.


Windows and Mirrors

Later that day, I started to think about how wonderful it was for all of the children who use AISC to have access to Cantata Learning. With over 30 countries represented, the music, stories and illustrations in these titles are such a wonderful way to support unity among this community. 


Cantata Learning books allow children see themselves in the pages as they read and sing along. With so many different types of children and places represented throughout the books, everyone can feel and be a part of the singing, reading, and conversations that takes place.  After all, music is the universal language.



When Jeremy shared the picture above with me, I just had to know the story behind this little girl’s smile. He said, “That’s what happens when a kid comes into your office, sees your tie, and wants a picture with you because you are the same.” I think I have been smiling ever since he shared that sweet little story.  


Coming Together for Read Across America

Remember this week, as we celebrate Read Across Americathat libraries, music, books, and Cantata Learning can bring us together in so many ways! They bring friendship, love, and a way for us to connect voices around the world through books and music.  



We all have the power to bring a voice to each child that passes through our doors. This week, and every week, let’s make sure every one is heard.


As you are celebrating the diversity within your library and community, please share how your students feel heard by using the hashtags #ReadYourWorld, #OwnVoice, and #LoudLibraries!

5 Ways to Boost Usage of Your Digital Collection February 21, 2018


Contributed by Shannon McClintock Miller


A digital collection is an essential part of today’s school library. Not only does it support our future ready students by ensuring equitable digital access to information and resources, it also empowers student voice, inquiry, and creativity through a variety of platforms and tools.  


As a Future Ready Librarian, I worked very hard to develop my school’s digital collection over the years. It grew into a beautiful, diverse, and engaging collection of eBooks, databases like PebbleGo, digital tools and apps, and other online resources. And I was always looking for ways to promote it among the school community.


When I first introduced the digital collection to our community, I thought to myself, This is going to be awesome! The students will love all of the digital resources, the teachers will use them every day in their classrooms, and families will be thrilled to have access at home and on the go to such wonderful content for their children.  


Well, that wasn’t the case. Not even close actually. Even though I told everyone about our amazing digital resources, there was hardly anyone using them anywhere. In fact, a lot of people would say, Oh, I always forget we have those… or That’s right! Tell me again how we get there?


So, I took a few steps back and started over by doing a lot of things to boost the digital collection’s usage!  



I kicked it off by hosting a big day of celebrating our new digital collection. We decorated the library, put up posters, and prepared activities to help patrons get to know this part of our collection. We invited teachers, administrators, and students and their families.


Guess what?  It worked!  We saw our digital collection usage increase at school and at home. Teachers were using it more through collaboration and instruction. Families were sharing sweet stories of learning together at home. And every day I would have students run up to me to share the neat things they were finding, researching, learning, questioning, and creating from our digital collection.  


I knew what was happening at this point. According to the American Library Association’s Digital Literacy Task Force, “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” We were empowering our students with the digital literacy skills they needed and giving them a place to develop these skills.


One part of our digital collection that really stood out for me in bringing these digital literacy skills and practices into play were the Cantata Learning stories and songs. I wanted to make sure we focused on them to meet of the needs of our youngest learners, along with their teachers and families.  


Let me share 5 ways we did this so you can give your digital collection a boost with Cantata Learning stories and songs too!  


1. Cantata Learning stories and songs can be accessed quickly and easily via the QR codes included with each book.  

The QR codes to the stories and songs can be accessed anywhere you have a device. You can stream the music online and download it to your device. This makes the books perfect for reading, listening, learning, and singing on the go.


Always be sure to point out the QR codes that takes readers to the music. The codes can be found on the back cover and within the front pages of each book.


You can add the QR code to a poster, a bookmark, a postcard, or a table topper for your students to scan.  Kids love taking things like a postcard or business card home… it makes them feel very grown up.  


2. There are several Symbaloo webmixes full of the Cantata Learning stories and songs.  



You can have your students go to each song and story as I described above, or you can direct them to the Symbaloo webmixes I have created for each season of Cantata Learning. These can be shared with students as a link on your homepage, through a QR code, in Google Classroom, and more. And at the bottom of each webmix, there are tiles to all of the other seasons, too.


This is a terrific way to access all of the Cantata Learning stories and songs in one place. And, it’s easy for little ones to navigate for themselves, which helps to build their digital literacy confidence!


3. Add the Cantata Learning YouTube videos to your blog, website, Google Classroom, or to an online newsletter tool like Smore.  



You will find all of the books uploaded into series- and season-based playlists on the Cantata Learning YouTube channel.  All of the videos can be embedded or added as a link, so this is a great way to bring your audience to the stories and songs online through videos.  


Your students can even follow along with the print book as they listen to the YouTube video.  They will be singing, reading, and dancing along in no time!


4. Point students to the Cantata Learning eBooks through Capstone Interactive Booklists.



One of my favorite spots to display Cantata Learning books online is in Capstone Interactive. Within CI, you can create a Booklist which can include any Cantata Learning eBook that you want. For example, say you and the art teacher are collaborating on an science and art unit focusing on color. You could create a student focused Booklist such as “Check Out the Cantata Learning Stories and Songs about COLORS Here!” featuring the all-new Sing Your Colors series.



You could even pull in PebbleGo from Capstone and have students research the articles about Colors in PebbleGo Science. By pairing these two resources up for this unit, you would be able to cover lots of information in a meaningful, musical, and creative way. The art teacher will love this collaboration too, and will remember these digital resources for future projects and reference needs in the art room.  


5. Add your digital collection to your online catalog so it is easy for students and teachers to access.

Your digital vendor will provide MARC records to load into your online catalog, such as Destiny. By doing this and letting everyone know they are there, you will give them access to search for and find the Cantata Learning stories and songs within the library catalog. There is even a hyperlink in each title’s record that will take you directly to the song.  



The eBook or print record could even be added to a Collection by Destiny, along with links to the songs, YouTube videos, and other Cantata Learning resources, such as their free lesson plans. I created this Collection for the Spring 2018 Cantata Learning season that you can use and share with your community right now.


As you can see, Cantata Learning is a great product with the flexibility to engage even our youngest learners and to help encourage their digital literacy skills. I’ve shared just a few of the ways that we can give our digital collections for young readers a boost and bring all they have to offer into our homes and learning communities. What are some other ideas you have come up with to do this within your community and collection?