Are you a homeschooling parent who wants to introduce early music concepts to your kids? You also might be a music instructor who is seeking some new books to incorporate into your curriculum. This varied list will help you find some wonderful books to include in your lesson plans.
The selections are divided into several categories so that you can easily find a book that will support the concepts that you are teaching.
Books that Encourage Singing
1. My Aunt Came Back by John M. Feierabend with illustrations by Melanie Champagne
This classic folk music tune gets the literary treatment in this beautiful little book that transforms an “aunt” into an “ant.” Thanks to a hilarious conclusion, kids love to sing and read this one again and again. This echo song is accompanied by hand motions, making it a win-win in the minds of most students and teachers. To help make this book as engaging as possible, it comes with a fully-notated music sheet that includes all of the hand motions and words.
2. Miss Mary Mack by Mary Ann Hoberman with illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott
Kids love to sing and clap along with this rhyme, and when the elephant jumps over the fence, there is still plenty of fun coming up. In fact, because the author expands upon the original rhyme, this is one that kids will want to experience again and again.
3. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly! By Lucille Colandro with illustrations by Jared D. Lee
This Scholastic publication is a favorite version for many readers. In this version, the old lady is swallowing animals to make a home full of lovable and unique pets. While the emphasis on this book lies with singing and rhyming, there also is a nice element of adding to make this a really well-rounded selection.
4. I’m a Little Teapot as told and illustrated by Iza Trapani
Trapani has a full line of illustrated books that are based on famous nursery rhymes and children’s songs. This is just one example that has particularly adorable illustrations and gets extra points for showing this adventurous teapot fighting a bull in Mexico, sailing down a river in China and racing with the hounds on a fox hunt. Kids also enjoy being able to do the motions with the original song.
5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
Kids who love animals will adore this book and its rhyming, sing-song text. Plus, Eric Carle’s illustrations are timeless classics that children never tire of seeing. Complete with a purple cat, a blue horse, a soft yellow duck and much more, this book is a veritable musical zoo for little ones.
Exploring Musical Instruments with Books
1. Snow Sounds by David A. Johnson
This book is such a fun exploration of onomatopoeia that is doubles as a fun and informative language lesson while also delving into the music of everyday sounds. Using words like scrape, swoosh, crunch and sweep, kids between to learn all about sounds. Plus, they love the elegant watercolor images and the spare but evocative poetry of the text. Whether it snows where you live or you just wish that it did, this is an unforgettable selection.
2. Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson with illustrations by Laura Rankin
Join Tiptoe Joe, an adorable bear, and his forest friends as they try to be as quiet as possible throughout their adventure. With furry feet, claws and hooves, it isn’t always easy to be quiet. What kinds of sounds do each of these types of feet make? The illustrations are bright and bold, engaging kids for many visits to Tiptoe Joe’s forest.
3. Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle with illustrations by G. Brian Karas
This book is alive with words and sounds that perfectly lend themselves to being played on musical instruments. The jazz-chant verse of the text is absolutely infectious, and kids quickly fall in love with the clever word play. As you read to your students, ask them which instruments might sound most like the different sound elements in the book.
4. Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault with illustrations by James Endicott
This book has been around since 1988, and it’s been used by music teachers throughout the decades to help young learners explore the different sounds that are made by various instruments. With captivating rhythms and melodies, this is a lyrical read whether it’s raining or not. This book also serves as a wonderful introduction to volume. Begin softly, then increase the volume as the storm grows in its power. Finally, as the storm subsides, return to a softer sound.
5. Mortimer by Robert Munsch with illustrations by Michael Martchenko
If you are your kids have already discovered the Classic Munsch series of 19 books, then you are probably familiar with this classic entry. Mortimer absolutely refused to be quiet, regardless of who tries to make him stop making noise. Music teachers frequently use a xylophone and sing the refrain. It’s even more fun when each student has a xylophone or other instrument to play. Encourage them to shout, “Mortimer, be quiet.” They’ll love it!
Books About Instruments
1. The Carnival of the Animals (Book & CD) by Jack Prelutsky and Camille Saint-Saens with illustrations by Mary GrandPre
The accompanying CD has Camille Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of the Animals so that it’s easy to listen and read along. This version is particularly recommended as the illustrations are by the same artist who illustrated the Harry Potter books. It’s a lovely edition that kids will love to listen to.
2. Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf: With a Fully-Orchestrated and Narrated CD by Janet Schulman with illustrations by Peter Malone
Introduce many of the most well-known instruments of the orchestra and the sounds they make with this classic work. Each character has a signature instrument, and kids will love learning to identify the unique sounds that each one makes.
3. Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss with illustrations by Marjorie Priceman
This is a Caldecott Honor book that features a trombone playing all by itself on stage. Then, a trumpet, a French horn and additional instruments begin to join in. Through it all, kids are introduced to number-related words like duet and trio, and with plenty of gorgeous, colorful drawings, this is a popular book with young learners. Try to have recordings of each instrument ready to play them as each one is added to the “orchestra.”
4. The Jazz Fly by Matthew Gollub with illustrations by Karen Hanke
Here is another award-winning selection that introduces little ones to jazz. The book includes an audio CD. As a bonus, be certain to download the free audio recording that features the author narrating the book while being accompanied by a jazz quartet.
Inclusive Book Selections
1. Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Pinkney with illustrations by Briann Pinkney
One of the most famous and accomplished female vocalists of the 20th century is celebrated in this gorgeous book. Introduce students to jazz and Fitzgerald’s unmatched rendition of A Tisket, A Tasket during Black History Month.
2. Violet’s Music by Angela Johnson with illustrations by Laura Huliska-Beith
Violet loves music, so she never misses an opportunity to sing or play a makeshift instrument. This lively and lyrical selection is the perfect choice for any students who prefer to march to a different drummer.
3. Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her by Amy Novesky with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Two of Billie Holiday’s greatest loves, music and dogs, are celebrated in this engaging work. Her boxer dog named Mister was always her favorite, and he frequently accompanied her to the venues where she performed. This book introduces her musical career while also focusing on her bond with Mister.
4. The Electric Slide and Kai by Kelly J. Baptist with illustrations by Darnell Johnson
While all of his family members are great dancers, Kai hasn’t quite been bit by the dancing bug yet. With a family wedding coming up, Kai resolves to finally find his groove and show his moves on the dance floor.
Explore More with Prodigies
Are you looking for even more ways to make music part of your homeschool curriculum? Or, perhaps you’re a music instructor who is searching for some inspiration when it comes to introducing the basics. Either way, you’ve come to the right place. Prodigies has a wealth of musical knowledge to offer to young learners.