The students in the pre-kindergarten class at Holy Spirit school in Newport file into the classroom from the hallway, and immediately form a semi-circle on the rug, waiting expectantly for what they know is coming next.  Many have been asking since they were in the gym an hour earlier: “Is it music time today?”

As they settle in for music, the music teacher brings out what you would expect for music circle time:  a guitar and some basic instruments.  But she also produces a book  — for this session it’s the book “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.  Many of the students know the song, so they immediately begin relating to the words on the page.  The rhythm is familiar, so they clap along as each page is turned.  After the book is read, they stand and do rhythmic movement to the words they just read and sang. The exercise intentionally combines music, literature and movement to support development of literacy skills in the early childhood classroom.

What’s also interesting about this program is that it is designed and delivered by a teaching pair of a music educator and a student from the Melodic Connections studio.  Students at Melodic Connections have been developing their confidence and music skills in the studio, and they are now finding opportunities to flex their music muscle in many different settings in the community, including early childhood classrooms at Holy Spirit in Newport, and several other classrooms in the Cincinnati Public School system.

“What makes it awesome,” says Michele Mabrey, director of the Holy Spirit school, “is that the students get to experience music in a different way, and use instruments in a different way.  They get exposure to adults, and different kinds of adults, which will help their transition to Kindergarten.”

Musical Books is designed intentionally to support Step Up to Quality standards for early childhood education.  As the program unfolds, the supervising board certified music therapists are gathering data to support how this program improves attention to task, a critical skill that determines success in  the classroom.  Early indicators are that this multi-sensory approach to literature can have a significant impact on classroom attention span.

“We have some students who don’t sit still for anything,” Mabrey says, “and they really sit still for this. They are even more quiet and pay better attention than they do for the library lady!  They are involved in the music — they get to play instruments and be involved in the music and the book, which really keeps their attention during the session.”

Musical Books is currently launching in select early childhood classrooms in the greater Cincinnati area, thanks to support from ArtsWave and several area foundations. If you are interested in Musical Books for your school contact