Singing the "I Can't Sing!" blues

By Julia Cantrell, Children's Library Associate, Hardesty Regional Library

So, are you ready to turn your life into a musical yet?


Let me guess... You can't sing? You don't know songs?

Hm. Let's talk about your various concerns, and my totally reasonable explanations of why you are wrong.

Concern #1: Uh, sing? No. I do not sing.  Have you ever heard a koala bellow? That is what I sound like. (Side note: Reader, if you haven't heard a koala before, please look that up. It. Is. Shocking.)

Answer: Okay, first of all, koalas have a special organ that helps them make that beautiful and terrifying sound, so, no, you DON'T sound like a koala, I promise. Second, in terms of your baby learning language, it matters absolutely zero how well you can sing! This is because by singing, what you are really doing is slowing down language. When you sing, you are teaching your children lots of different things: the sounds of words, new vocabulary, listening skills, awareness of sounds, and sometimes even print awareness. So even if you are off tune, the most important thing to remember is that when you sing, your child listens. That, my bellowing friend, is key.

Concern #2: I don't know any songs! Or... I can't remember the words to songs!

Answer:  Full disclosure, I can't remember the words to songs either. I have a handy chart I share with my storytime groups to help us ALL along with the words, but I still mess up. We are humans, after all, and we humans make mistakes! We still want what's best for our children, so sing any words you like! That is a really fun part about singing. You can make up your own words to known tunes or you can just make up a whole new song. Sing about what you know and what you are doing. This new song will be number one on the charts in your house!

Concern #3: But I'm not creative enough to do that on the fly!

Answer: Yes, you are. But when in doubt, grab some musical books. Here are some titles that might get your musicality flowing:

Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig

Pete the Cat books by Eric Litwin/James Dean

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont

Anything by author/illustrator Jane Cabrera

Concern #4: I am not musically gifted, so I can't teach music. I don't feel comfortable teaching something I am not good at! My degree is in [fancy-science-word] so I'd rather teach them about [fancy-science-word].

Answer: Like our "can't sing" concern, it does not matter if you don't know how to read music or play any instruments. As it turns out, YOU are your child's world and, in their eyes, anything you do is AWESOME. We are programmed to respond to music from gestation as we hear our mother's heartbeat steady, rhythmic and strong. We respond naturally to the soothing sounds around us - and nothing is more soothing than a gentle tune from your child's whole world (psssttt: remember, that's you). Playing music, singing, or playing musical instruments with your child is a fun experience for them. And when we are having fun, we are learning. Musical talent is not a requirement, I promise. Still teach them about [fancy-science-word], though, because they will love what you love!

If you are still having doubts, join us at any Tulsa City-County Library location, where we have music or singing in every Build A Reader storytime! But remember, you are your child's first teacher, so come learn to get you started and then use what you learned at home. You'll be comfortable with music in no time! If you are looking for even more musical fun, join us at the Hardesty Regional Library on most Monday mornings at 11 a.m. for our weekly "Don't Stop the Music!" program.

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