From a young age, I'd always been a huge bookworm, so when I became an elementary music teacher, I couldn't help but use picture books in music class regularly. In this blog post, I'm going to share my favorites - the ones that made an imprint on myself and my students and inspired my own musical picture books.
7 Books I Loved Using in Elementary Music Class
The Bear and the Piano
The first time I picked this one up and read it aloud to my students, I bawled my eyes out. It is such a simple, sweet story but it hit home for me and opened up the door for meaningful discussion with my students about what really matters. We talked about what we wanted our own classroom environment to be like, how we wanted to treat each other, and ways we could celebrate each other's successes. Heck, I'm tearing up just thinking back on it!
After that, it became a regular staple in my classroom, especially at the beginning of the school year. It helped so many of my students start to feel like my music class was home.
Giraffes Can't Dance
I'll be honest, there are a few places in this story where the rhyme and meter rub me the wrong way, but I pushed past it for my youngest students.
While my older grade levels could have deeper conversations or learn from more abstract resources, that wasn't the case for my PreK - 1st graders. They needed to see how other's words impacted others to start to understand. Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae was a fantastic tool to show my students how we should and should not treat one another in music class.
Family Dynamics: Embrace Your Sound
Okay, full disclosure, Courtney was one of my students at At Home Author but this book is beautifully illustrated - the accuracy of each instrument is incredibly detailed.
Family Dynamics teaches the instrument families through a storyline with some SEL components as well.
She also has a sequel releasing in September 2023 all about rhythm and self-esteem.
Dream Drum Girl
The story follows a young girl who dreams of becoming a drummer, despite the cultural expectations around her. It was Inspired by Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's taboo against female drummers. Being Latina myself, this story meant a lot to me.
Besides the SEL and inspirational moments, the book can also be used to introduce different types of percussion instruments and rhythms, and even inspire students to compose and perform.
Personally, I have seen the impact it has had on my students. They come away from the story feeling empowered and motivated to pursue their own passions, both in music and beyond. It's a beautiful blend of art forms that speaks to the heart of our mission as educators: inspiring children through music and literature.
Freddie the Frog series
Now, I know that this isn't one book but Sharon Burch really hit it out of the park with the Freddie the Frog series.
I discovered it back when I student taught and was amazed at how she brought music to life through the pages of her books. I used them to introduce rhythms, for sub plans, for reinforcing reading notes on the staff, and for evaluating student learning. The kids love the characters, and I loved how many options there were to use the books again and again.
Dan, The Taxi Man
On the surface, this is a "just for fun" read about musical instruments. You may not guess this from the title but Dan, the taxi man is picking up all the performers for the show! But it's also a great rhythm read and steady beat practice.
This was a great one to help my PreK students get involved in class and introduce them to basic concepts.
I Got Two Dogs
This book comes with a CD and is just plain fun to sing along to. Anytime I read this book with my students, they'd immediately ask to read it again once it was through.
The audio component makes it an easy story to leave for a sub but it's also a great way to demonstrate AB form. Honestly, though, it's just so much fun! But if you don't want your students howling like dogs, it might not be a fit for your music classroom.
What are your favorite books for elementary music class?
Leave a comment below with your recommendations and resources!