I love how children’s books make subjects accessible for kids. often giving them a visual connection to what they are learning. As a piano teacher and lover of music, I want my own children to have a deep appreciation for music as well. I intentionally seek out children’s books about music. Connecting them with musicians and musical experiences in books about music makes music relevant to them. I love that they can see how playing music is a skill that they can contribute to our culture.
Below are a list of five of my favorite children’s books about music.
(I’ve included my affiliate links if you wish to order any of the books, but the opinions expressed are my own).
- This Jazz Man by Karen EhrhardtI thought I’d start off our list with one of my all-time favorites. This book takes the traditional “This Old Man” rhyme and turns it into a tribute to Jazz. I enjoy reading this as much as my kids enjoy listening to it, because of all the fun rhythms, scats and rhymes that are built in to the text. The book also has a more text heavy section at the end and about the jazz icons pictured in the story.
- Can You Hear It? by William LachHave a road trip in your future? This book and CD make for a GREAT activity during long car rides. Accompanying 12 classical music tracks on the CD are 12 pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each picture has a brief description about the piece. The text points out things to listen for, such as a bee hovering above a flower played by violins or dancing fairies played by the celeste. It’s is a fantastic way to introduce your child to renowned classical pieces. Kids also learn to recognize and distinguish different sounds and instruments.
- Trombone Shorty by Troy AndrewsThis beautifully illustrated book is a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and the Coretta Scott Kind (Illustrator) Award Winner. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews — also the author — tells the story of his dream to become a musician. The text is a celebration of New Orleans’ musical culture. The notes at the end go into more depth about Troy Andrews and the musical history of New Orleans.
- The Ella Bella Ballerina series by James MayhewOne of my favorite childhood memories is attending the ballet. I love the visual experience combined with the auditory one – and the way that it also makes classical music accessible for young audiences. The Ella Bella Ballerina series is a fantastic way of explaining the story behind many famous ballets. Included in the series are ballets The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The illustrations are sweet and magical. At the end of each book, Mayhew always details more notes about the choreography, performance history and composer. I love reading these to my kids before we attend a ballet!
- Carnival of the Animals: Classical Music for Kids by Henry Holt & Co. If you’re looking for a great piece to introduce your kids to classical music, look no further than Saint-Saens’s Carnival of the Animals. This particular book comes with the CD, and you can read the commentary that goes along with each piece as you listen. The text is simple and the pieces are short, so it is highly accessible for even the youngest musicians-to-be! As a piano teacher, I use this book and CD often in my classes and summer camps.
- Meet the Orchestra by Ann HayesI’ll admit that this book feels a bit more “wooden” to me than the others on the list. That said, my kids really love it and it has been a valuable tool in helping them make the connections between what they see in the book and the instruments in an orchestra. Though it doesn’t necessarily have an engaging story line, it is a great introduction to orchestral instruments.
- The Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought) by HMH Books for Young ReadersMy daughter adores biographies, and we are fans of this particular series of books. Though definitely geared toward an older reader, this collection includes biographies of a variety of composers. You’ll learn plenty of interesting facts and stories about each one. You’ll also have some titles of their famous works if you wish to take the learning and exploration further!
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