Music is one of most emotional and enduring forms of storytelling; early cultures often share their stories through music. With the launch of our brand new series called Children. Music. Life, of which the first book of the series, The Drum, is coming out soon, we have started a campaign to explore the relationship between children, music and stories. You can keep up to date by searching for #TinyOwlDrum and #ChildrenMusicLife.
We contacted experts in all kinds of areas such as parents, illustrators, teachers, and librarians, and asked them:
What do you think about the role of music in children’s lives and its relationship to stories? What song do you remember from your childhood?
With music and stories you create an every day magic that bonds people, experiences and memories together
There are two things I love in life, apart from my family; reading and music. For me, they are both forms of escaping where you are, meeting new people and exploring new places. For that reason, my son has grown up surrounded by both.
When he was a baby, I would rock him to sleep singing nursery rhymes. As he got older, we’d read stories together, and if they rhymed or had a rhythm, he’d ask me to sing them. In fact, I can’t read Little Rabbit Foo Foo without singing it now (thanks son). He loved playing with sounds, and would babble away with his own tunes, which I would dance to and join in.
As he grew older still, we’d take turns picking songs to listen to in the car, and sing them loud and proud. Music, like exploring books, was just something we did together. In fact, we have traditions around music now, like when we drive to my Mum and Dad’s there is a certain point in the journey where I have to put The Wurzel’s cover of Ruby by The Kaiser Chiefs on. It’s our song, our anthem foretelling of good times ahead.
For my son, music is now a huge part of his life. He plays three instruments brilliantly, and loves playing in a band, so I asked him what music meant to him: “I can’t imagine my life without music. It lifts me up when I’m sad, and calms me down when I’m angry. Music makes me feel good.
So how does that link to stories? While I grew up in the UK, I was born in South Africa, so I grew up listening not only to the UK charts, but also artists like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, before they made it big internationally with Paul Simon. My mum told me about the history of the isicathamiya style of singing that she had grown up with, and that some of the songs she knew had carried the history of African Tribes from one generation to the next. It was from my Mum, at an early age that I learned that songs weren’t just about fun and entertainment – they were history and life lessons too, if you listened closely enough to the words.
At school, we sing in class and assemblies, a whole range of songs, and children remember them. Putting words to music and singing them helps them stay in the memory. We’ve learned times tables, we’ve learned about the human body, the water cycle, and Little Rabbit Foo Foo. There is something joyous about the sound of children singing and learning together, a shared, memorable experience for everyone.
Children should be exposed to a wide range of music and have plenty of opportunities to create their own, just as they should be exposed to a wide range of stories and have plenty of opportunities to create their own. Music has the power to shift emotions, and stories have the power to educate. Combine the two, and you create an every day magic that bonds people, experiences and memories together.
Favourite childhood song?
Wow, that’s a toughie! I’m going to cheat and pick two, sorry!
My Dad was a DJ when I was growing up, and Friday and Saturday nights would see him on stage entertaining a crowd. He was all about the music, and to this day, he still DJs in his local pub. I remember any family party would, at some point, feature Music by John Miles, and that was when everyone would sing and dance and laugh together. That song is my Dad.
My favourite childhood song was Captain Beaky by Jeremy Lloyd, which Keith Mitchell charted with. I remember finding the album in the fire place one Christmas morning and then begging my dad to play it for me – I was too frightened I’d drop the needle and scratch it! On it was a collection of Jeremy Lloyd’s poems that Jim Parker had set to music. They then had a whole host of celebrities reciting the different poems. I would march around our front room as though I was a member of the band too, on the tail of the dastardly Hissing Sid. We went on holiday to France that year, and while driving to a lake in the mountains, the road twisted and turned. My Mum declared it Hissing Sid road, which then had all of us in the car singing Captain Beaky, including my Nan. The record didn’t survive (we played it until it’s grooves wore out) but I still have my copy of The Search For Hissing Sid!
Both Captain Beaky and Music connect me deeply to my family, and the great times we shared when I was growing up. They are both warm, comforting hugs – my kind of every day magic!
* Nicki Cleveland is a School Librarian at Cannon Park Primary School