If you can talk, you can sing

Category: Bookbug

Singing is something we encourage all adults to do with children. Yet for some adults, the thought of singing is scary. People tell horror stories of school, and classes separated into those who could sing, and those who were better listeners. And because of this, people who were discouraged from singing at school are terrified to give it another go.


More and more research is emerging about the link between early music ability and literacy levels. Music teaches our ears to hear and our mind to pattern. Both these skills are essential in reading development. Music uses beat, rhythm, stress, tone, and phrasing – all important parts of reading development. The electrical impulses produced in our brains are similar for the processing of music and the processing of written word. Because music and literacy share some brain processes then music can be used to help support reading development.


Many people think they can’t sing and then assume they are tone deaf. It’s not true. If you can speak, you’re not tone deaf. We use tone to convey meaning in English. Although tone in English does not change the meaning of individual words, it can change the meaning of a phrase. We use tone to tell us if something is a question or a statement. Tone expresses emotion and meaning.


No one teaches us to use these tones and to change our tone depending on whether we’re asking a question or making a statement. We catch the meaning of tones as we learn our language. As we listen to a range of speakers, we naturally imitate and employ the tones we have learned.


Singing is something that all adults can do to encourage literacy among children. As my colleague Lucinda says, an adult that thinks they can’t sing just hasn’t been shown how to sing. Now for the good news – the songs we sing for children should be simple. The simpler the better. It’s not about belting out a huge note. It’s about singing roughly the range of the Eastenders theme tune – the perfect note range for a child to join in.


Sing with children. It provides a wealth of benefits. Don’t tell me you can’t. If you can talk, you can sing.


Bookbug Sessions are story, song and rhyme sessions for parents and children aged 0-3 years. Why not visit a local Bookbug Session this week? You can find information based on local authority here.