Tag Archives: music

Making the Most of the Library

It’s National Library Week! All sorts of celebrations are happening in libraries across the country, including book giveaways, special guest events, and more. Now, it’s no secret that I love libraries. My dad was a librarian for most of his life, my uncle is a librarian, my wife is a librarian, I have lots of librarian friends, and I even worked in a library for over a year and a half.

In fact, it boggles my mind that so many people don’t use their library. There are so many valuable resources at a library useful for children and adults–books; magazines; computers; genealogical material; dvds; audiobooks; music; both fun and educational events and materials; and best of all, the masters of finding whatever information you need, librarians.

Behind that smile lies a mind ready and able to find whatever information you need–even if what you need is the connection between medieval siege warfare and Paris Hilton. Not that I have ever needed that information. No sir.

The public library is a valuable resource for anyone, but particularly parents. Here are a few ways you can use that resource well.

1. Make use of story time. As a parent of a young child, you probably already know about story time, but it still bears repeating. Go to story time. It’s one of the highlights of Sam’s week! He loves going to the library and seeing the librarians and all the other kids that attend. There are songs, games, dances, puppet plays, and of course picture books read by expert readers. It’s great for your children to see and play with other kids, plus they will definitely have fun with the activity itself.

You can enjoy summer reading programs anywhere.

2. Join summer reading. Every public library in America is going to have a summer reading program. These can be great fun for your kids, even if they’re not old enough to read themselves yet. Parents can read to children and participate that way, winning prizes and having fun while enriching their minds. Furthermore, many summer reading programs also include special guests and events for children. There might be a special touring puppet show one week, a concert by a kids musician the next, a magic show the week after that, or even more. One year while I was working at a library, a truck-based aquarium came and parked in our parking lot for the kids to enjoy!

Although they’re not as well known, most public libraries will also hold an adult summer reading program as well. You should definitely participate! There are still prize giveaways, special events, and more for you to enjoy as well, so plan to join in this summer.

3. Ask about other children’s programs. As I just mentioned, libraries have lots of great programs they put on themselves, like story times or summer reading. However, there are even more great opportunities for your child that you might never know about without asking. These could include Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, after school programs, arts enrichment classes, and so much more. It’s a librarian’s job to know about these sorts of things, so ask away!

I don’t think these kids think a library is boring, do you?

4. Socialize. If your idea of a library is a musty place where people will shush you for speaking above a whisper, it’s time to reevaluate your conceptions. Libraries are a great place to meet and talk with new people or just spend a nice afternoon playing a game. Although board games would be a great idea–I’ve got a few suggestions for you too–many libraries now even have video games for kids and adults to play.

5. Check out materials. This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Libraries are a great way to find great reading, listening, or viewing material. You can try things you might never have tried before–new genres, styles, authors, musicians, and more. Check out both fiction and non-fiction, books and dvds, audiobooks and music–you never know what you’ll discover, but your life will definitely be better for it.

If you’ve never been to a library, give it a try. Spend some time at your local library this week. Wander through it. Ask a few questions. Check out something new. And above all, remember to thank your librarian. They work hard for you, whether you know it or take advantage of it or not. Enjoy your time there! I know you will.

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In keeping with the series on light psychology I’ve been doing, I spent some time considering the value of music recently. The concept that music is good for babies isn’t a new one. We’ve all heard about the studies showing that classical music has a positive effect on children–even if we know now that those studies had some major flaws. However, a more recent study has demonstrated the value of musical instruction even in very young children.

It was no mistake that one of my earliest posts was a review of a music album. Music is universal and one of the oldest activities humans do–maybe that’s why it’s unsurprising that children love music so much. Sam is no exception! He loves hearing music at church, singing songs at home, listening to CDs in the car. Recently, a friend came to our house and played guitar for a while, which he adored!

Music is useful for so many different things–relaxation, excitement, catharsis, and much more. However, right now I’m most interested in the educational properties of music. I remember as a child learning many things through music. The alphabet, my home address and phone number, aspects of safety, and more were all taught to me through music; through songs that I still remember and can sing.

I fully plan on teaching Sam many of the same songs that my parents used to teach me valuable things, but I also intend to make sure he receives music lessons–and I might even join him. I have wished for years that I could play a musical instrument, something I wish I had not resisted when I was given music lessons in childhood.

I think we already bond through music. We enjoy singing together, and I hope we will continue to do so. Music fills a void in us. Fred Rogers, a major hero of mine, says this:

Music is the one art we all have inside. We may not be able to play an instrument, but we can sing along or clap or tap our feet. Have you ever seen a baby bouncing up and down in the crib in time to some music? When you think of it, some of that baby’s first messages from his or her parents may have been lullabies, or at least the music of their speaking voices. All of us have had the experience of hearing a tune from childhood and having that melody evoke a memory or a feeling. The music we hear early on tends to stay with us all our lives.

Share some music with your child, and give them a song for the rest of their lives.

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Flow and parenting

Recently I talked about the importance of relaxation. However, today I want to talk about something that looks very different, but can frequently feel very similar: Flow.

If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of Flow, it can seem very foreign, but its really a very simple concept. Flow is when you’re doing something you are good at and that challenges you adequately, and you do it until you lose track of time and whatever other needs you might have. You’re “in the zone”, so to speak. Music, art, sports, exercise, even (and perhaps especially) playing a game are all ways people regularly experience Flow. Flow is the meeting of high challenge, high skill, regular feedback, and pure delight.

I think I’d like to add one more thing to that list of common Flow actions: Parenting. High challenge? Of course! Regular feedback? That kid is watching you all the time and letting you know how you’re doing through visual cues if not through sound. High skill? It may not always seem like it, but I think we’re probably better parents than we realize much of the time.

Whether you’re rolling a ball with your 18 month old, playing superheroes with your 4 year old, building a science fair model with your 8 year old, or discussing the finer points of why a Zulu warrior would beat a medieval knight in full armor (should this natural and obviously historical battle ever take place) with your 16 year old, Flow can quickly and easily come into play.

Of course, not all activities foster Flow. Those low skill and/or low challenge activities aren’t going to work. Take the time to develop interests in other areas and turn off the tv. Go out and experience Flow with your child today.

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REVIEW: Prokofiev: Peter And The Wolf / Saint-Saëns: Carnival Of The Animals

One thing I plan to do on a weekly basis is give a review of a book, cd, game, movie, or some other product that appeals to families or children. This is the first of those, and for your convenience, I will include a link to Amazon’s listing for the product.


Peter and the Wolf is a quintessential childhood experience—whether you first experienced it through Disney’s classic (if somewhat bowdlerized) animated short, at a concert, or by listening to this or one of the many other recordings of the piece—it serves as a wonderful introduction to classical music to young children. Of course, Prokofiev is one of my favorite composers as well, so Peter and the Wolf has a special place in my heart, and I look forward to sharing it with Samuel as he grows older too. I admit that I was not as familiar with Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals; however, that is a favorite of my wife’s, and I enjoyed listening to it as well. At three and a half months, Samuel didn’t seem to appreciate listening to this album as much as I did, but I think he will when he’s older, and I know other children will as well.

The album begins with one long track (over 27 minutes long) consisting of the entirety of Peter and the Wolf, featuring Leonard Bernstein as the narrator. Bernstein assumes that the listener has some knowledge about the piece, which works for me—rather than pedagogically explain what each instrument represents in the symphony, he begins by having a “quiz”, which works well as a bit of interactive theatre as well as a nice reminder/explanation for how to interpret the piece. I also found Bernstein’s narration throughout the entire piece engaging and informative. However, the narration is ultimately a garnish in my opinion—the main attraction here is how the orchestra plays the symphony, and I have to say that I think the New York Philharmonic was on their A-game the day they recorded this. Everything is tight and expressive, easily detailing the action while remaining as beautiful, playful, and—when the wolf-like French horns come in—as menacing as ever.

Following the conclusion of Peter and the Wolf, Bernstein continues the narration on the album by giving some background on The Carnival of the Animals and the musicians playing on the album. Bernstein explains that Saint-Saëns intended the piece for amusement and as something that young people could appreciate, so Bernstein arranged for a number of young musicians to play for the album as well, even performers as young as 13. Although the music continues to be quite good in both the quality of composition and play, Bernstein’s narration and introduction of each movement (which are typically only a minute or two long, not counting the narration that prefaces every movement) grew tedious for me. Being largely unfamiliar with The Carnival of the Animals, I appreciated learning more about the symphony and (to a lesser extent) the performers, but I was excited about hearing the music, which was interrupted far too often. As an adult, I would have much rather been able to read about the movements in the CD liner or, if I were attending a performance, in the concert program. However, this is intended as an introduction to classical music for children, who will not have the reading ability or comprehension that I do as an adult. In that respect, I have to give Bernstein credit for reaching his audience at their level.

Ultimately, if you do not have a copy of Peter and the Wolf, this album is worth buying for that alone. Consider The Carnival of the Animals as a bonus for as long as you can appreciate listening to the narration—something that children may be able to appreciate for many years. I have to say that I will be looking for a version of Carnival of the Animals without any narration, and ultimately I think I would like to find an un-narrated recording of Peter and the Wolf as well. However, even if I never find those, I know that I will enjoy listening to this album with Samuel for many years to come, and I highly recommend it for you as well.


Do you enjoy Peter and the Wolf and/or the Carnival of the Animals? If you are familiar with this recording, how do you feel about Bernstein’s narration? What other music did you enjoy as a child, or what music do your own children enjoy?

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