Phillis Gershator

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This Is the Day!
and Singalongs

Some ideas for using this CD with children
at home and in the library and classroom.

First, a plug for picture books--the benefits of reading with young children, aside from the fun of it, have been documented over and over: reading enhances language skills and mental growth (cognitive development) and even social and moral development. Reading with children is a creative and mental stimulant. But at the same time, reading can be calming, comforting, soothing, especially in an environment that seems to offer too much stimulation and over programming (which is surely connected to the hyperactivity and attention disorders we’re seeing so much of among young kids).

Studies show that quiet activities such as cuddling, reading, and listening to soft music before bedtime help children to sleep better. No wonder bedtime stories are so popular! And lullabies, too, which are most likely the first music ever created. Parents and caregivers never really needed  scientific studies to figure this out––but it’s nice knowing our experiential realizations have been validated.

THIS IS THE DAY! STORYSONGS & SINGALONGS does contain some sweet songs and lullabies. “Hush, Little Bird" draws on themes from various cultures and complements the bedtime story THE BABYSITTER SINGS. “Sleep Song," which I think is the most soothing and sleep inducing song in the collection, sings about sleeping in every season. Other lullabies include “Where Did the Baby Go?” (which inspired the picture book WHERE DID THE BABY GO?), “Moon Song,” and “Who’s Awake?” which can accompany the bedtime story WHO’S AWAKE IN SPRINGTIME.

The very first song on the recording, “Greetings, Sun” is a lively wake-up tune, meant to greet the day with joy. The book GREETINGS, SUN is easy for beginning readers to read, and both song and book encourage kids to greet everything and anything under the sun, anything they choose, whether it’s socks and shoes, milk and cookies, friends and family. Maybe they will come up with new verses about the wonder of the cosmos, day and night––moon, stars, planets––and the amazing things we see around us everyday––flowers, trees, bugs....

Here is a sampling of additional verses we came up with: 

Greetings, clouds, and how are you,
clouds all in a row.
I’m glad you fly overhead,
drifting high and low.

Drifting by, drifting by
drifting high and low.
Drifting by above my head,
drifting high and low.

Greetings, moon, and how are you,
shining bright and white.
I’m glad you shine on and on,
lighting up the night.

Light the night, light the night,
lighting up the night.
Light the night, shine on and on,
lighting up the night.

Greetings, Mars, and how are you,
rocky, red and dry.
I’m glad you spin ‘round and ‘round,
planet in the sky.

Spin around, spin around,
planet in the sky.
Spin around the shining sun,
planet in the sky.

“Listen, Listen” adds a lyric dimension to the picture book LISTEN, LISTEN. The book is beautiful to look at and the illustrations challenge the audience--will children notice the repeated visual motifs and mini-narratives, like the flyaway balloon? Questions might be raised: What else makes a noise, besides the leaves, owls, etc. in the book? Does grass make noise? A cat? A paper bag? A balloon? And where is the missing balloon now? Did it pop!?

The book BREAD IS FOR EATING was featured on reading rainbow. In that episode, titled “Bread Is for Eating,” the host, LeVar Burton, made bread from scratch--a great project for kids. It’s a chance to learn how to measure ingredients and follow directions, and learn about yeast, too, a plant that can be observed easily under a microscope--you can watch it grow and reproduce! It is always fun to mix and knead and shape the dough, and to bake and share the final product. The song itself is a reminder of how precious bread is. A story hour could include other books about food (other staples such as pasta and rice, or, to get silly, gum) and/or books about process--ie, how things are made, such as de Paola’s lovely picture book, Charlie Needs a Cloak.  

“Moon Rooster” is a good song to dance to--everybody’s up and flapping their wings, puffing up their chests, turning to the east and turning to the west. In a group, some could be assigned the singing parts of various barnyard animals. The book itself, MOON ROOSTER, would make a good puppet play. The book also provides an opportunity to talk about the phases of the moon and its monthly orbit around the Earth, and how the sun lights up the part of the moon we can see. (Well, how would a rooster know those scientific things? Roosters can’t read. Roosters don’t go to school...!) A nice companion to MOON ROOSTER might be Duvoisin’s Petunia, the goose who thinks, just because she found a book, that she has suddenly become wise. Uh, oh. Speaking of geese, another good read aloud: Lindbergh’s The Day the Goose Got Loose. If I were conducting a story hour for young kids with MOON ROOSTER, I might also read Dan Yaccarino's Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I'm Off to the Moon--fun rhymes, bold and bright illustrations.

“This Is the Day” is a based on a traditional ballad but with new words. Kids can follow the words in the book and join in on the whole song, or join in on the fiddle de dees. The story could also be acted out in a class as a singing playlet. The counting lesson would then become truly experiential! For a story hour, it would be fun to follow the book THIS IS THE DAY! with one of my favorite books, Bemelmans’ Madeline, and even compare the artwork and setting.

“Tukama’s Song” is bouncy, an opportunity to get up and dance, either after or before the telling of a classic Caribbean tale: TUKAMA TOOTLES THE FLUTE. Children might like to compare the tale with other giant tales. Or a discussion/comparison might come up with reference to the chants and rhymes kids make up themselves (for jumping rope, counting, ball bouncing). Chants like those are actually the origins of the chants in “Tukama’s Song” and in the book.

“Kallaloo Calypso” is another good dance/activity song to sing after reading the book KALLALOO! Everyone can clap and stamp and sing along on the chorus. The story can be reenacted with pretend ingredients being dropped into a pot. It would be fun to make a simple version of the Caribbean’s favorite soup with real ingredients (a simple, speedy version can be found in the back of the book). For comparison, KALLALOO! (a Caribbean take on “Stone Soup”) might be read with another version of this classic soup story.

“When It Starts to Snow” was inspired by the book with the same title. Children might act out the parts of the animals in the book with a chorus singing the repeated questions. The book and song might make a good story hour, along with other books about winter and snow. Or perhaps the story hour could have as a topic all four seasons, with a seasonal song for each and/or a discussion about what different animals do in each season to survive. Many animals hibernate when it's too cold, and many estivate when it's too hot and dry. Estivation is a fascinating concept not as commonly discussed as hibernation, but the physiological slow-down is similar. It's easy to understand as a long, long sleep.

An example of another seasonal song is “Summer Is Summer,” which closely follows the text of the book SUMMER IS SUMMER. It’s a  sing-and-clap along song. The book itself is easy to read, and it might inspire kids to think about more summery things to write and sing about. Or maybe the same format could be used to sing about winter ("Winter Is Winter"), autumn ("Autumn Is Autumn"), and spring ("Spring Is Spring"). Kids can draw their own seasonal pictures to go with the songs.

“Come Back, Come Back” is a song about a beautiful place to be: a garden in the middle of the sea. “Come Back” might inspire verses about other beautiful places close to home, far away, or completely imaginary.

“Life Is a Dream”--a chance to sing in Spanish and shout AY! AY! And if  questions come up about what’s real and what’s pretend, we can talk about dreams, imagination, and creativity.

“Rata Pata Scata Fata” was inspired by an original tale set in the Caribbean with the same title. A little boy thinks his wishes will come true when he says those magical words. And they do! Kids can repeat the words, too, when they join the chorus. Some questions when reading the book might be: What’s a good wish? Do wishes come true? HOW do (or can) wishes come true?

The dove is a traditional symbol for peace and love. “Mourning Dove” is a sweet and simple bilingual song (Spanish/English), and it offers an opportunity to explore other languages as well. For example, “Mourning Dove” in French:

Bonjour, bonjour.
Ma calombe, bonjour.
Tu chante et tu chante.
Tu chante pour l’amour.

Rou, rou, rou.
La colombe t’appel.
Rou, rou, rou.
La colombe t’appel. 

In Italian:

Buon giorno, buon giorno
colomba, colombina.
A chi chiami
mia bella colombina?

Coo, coo, coo. 
La colomba chiama.
Coo, coo, coo.
La colomba chiama.

In Hebrew:

Bohker, bohker tov.
Bohker tov, yonah.
Le mi aht hamah,
yonah hamudah.

Hoo, hoo, hoo.
Ha yonah hamah.
Hoo, hoo, hoo.
Ha yonah hamah.

Children might like singing about other birds or animals, and making up their own verses, too.
Here’s a verse for a hummingbird:

Good morning, morning.
Good morning, hummingbird.
Where are you going?
Was that a sound I heard?

Hum, hum, hum,
the tiny hummingbird.
Hum, hum, hum,
the tiny hummingbird.

If anybody has more ideas to add to this list, please contact me. Thanks!