Engage Young Readers with Music and Art

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Guest post by Bob Barner, author and illustrator of over 30 books, including his most recent, Bears! Bears! Bears!

When I was in school the music and art teachers came to our classroom twice a week.  I was always excited when I saw the piano roll through the door or jars of beautiful bright colors wheeled in on the art cart.

My enthusiasm for both subjects made those classes my favorite times of the week.  Slowly I became more comfortable in the classroom and much more involved with the other classroom activities.  I think exposure to art and music helped me enjoy all of the benefits of school and helped me become a better student.  Unfortunately, many schools no longer have art and music classes as part of the curriculum and the job of sharing these wonderful experiences has become that of the teachers and parents.

Here are two fun ways to use art and music in your daily routine.

Collage Workshop

Students collect raw materials for their projects for one week before our collage date.  The list of things to gather might include:

used postage stamps,
fancy printed papers,
fabric scraps,
textured cardboard,
pipe cleaners,
shells, and

A mixture of full sheets and paper scraps works best. Also, supply glue sticks, scissors and pencils.

1. Suggest a subject for the collage artwork: animals, cars, bugs or a favorite book character.

2. Ask each student to choose one sheet of paper for the base of his or her collage project. Make the largest shapes first and add smaller details later. Some paper can be cut with scissors and others torn by hand.

3. Show your art and explain how you made it. (*see above Dove example.)

Draw to Music

I first thought of the idea as a nice way to introduce my book, Dem Bones, based on the 200-year 39968975old song of the same title.

I play a wonderful CD of the song, from the soundtrack of the movie Rain Man, and draw while keeping time to the music. As each new bone is mentioned in the song that’s the bone I draw. At the end of the song I have finished a complete skeleton, head to toe. Actually, toe to head!

Kid Activity:

Draw your own skeleton, even a simple stick figure will be entertaining.  Adults, show your child how to get started and listen to the beat of the music.  Then, ask your child to join in as you play the song one more time. Start with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and draw along with the music to make a skeleton. The song lasts about two minutes but you can work on details after it stops.

More music and drawing: Pick new songs to draw with — happy songs, songs about animals, holidays, or even a birthday. Good luck and have fun! Bio: Bob Barner has written and illustrated over 30 books including Bears! Bears! Bears!, Fish Wish, and Dinosaur Bones. Some have been translated into Korean, Spanish, and French, and also set to music and made into short films. He enjoys speaking to young readers at schools and libraries around the world.


Tour Bob’s house on the Chronicle Blog.

Melissa’s Note:  Thank you so much, Bob! I love the idea of combining music and art. I think it would inspire my writing as well! Your books are amazing – both in art and words. Thank you for contributing to Imagination Soup.

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