Music for the mind: New HCPL program encourages singing, dancing for toddlers

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GREENFIELD – Three-year-old twins Owynn and Weston Armstrong and little sis Callan swayed to the song and gleefully reached for bubbles in a new class offered at the Hancock County Public Library.

“Read, Rock and Roll” kicked off in November with a new style for preschool storytime. The class for children ages 2-5 combines more movement and music than ever before in an effort to capture youngsters’ attention and build early literacy skills.

Mom Bethany Armstrong couldn’t be more thrilled.

“They were COVID babies, and we decided we needed to get them out and acclimated and social,” she said after a recent music storytime, adding that she does both branches of the HCPL for kids activities. “We decided to do baby storytime with them at the New Pal location which is closest to us, and that just kind of opened our eyes to all the free events at the library and both twins just love to read.”

Since the Thursday music class fits perfectly with their family schedule, the Armstrongs have been enjoying their visits to Greenfield. Even 1-year-old Callan is taking to the music, and Armstrong is sure the free classes at the HCPL are helping all three children with vocal and coordination skills.

Egg shakers, rhythm sticks, scarves and more are used to help children understand rhyme and rhythm to familiar songs like “Time to Sing” by Raffi and “Let’s Go Swimming” by Laurie Berkner.

Instead of reading the picture book “Dinosaur Rap,” it was sung to them. And while bubbles filled the room to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” the picture book was held up so children could see rainbows, clouds and more.

The group even tried a song in Spanish, translated as “Dance Like Ants.”

The class is taught by Christina Shields, who started work at the HCPL in September but had done similar programs at libraries in Fishers and Noblesville. The classes have been so enjoyable, she said, that they’re planning to expand it into a bigger meeting room in January to accommodate even more children.

“It helps kids get ready to read, and singing kind of draws out the vowels and sounds in words, so they can hear the components more easily,” she said. “And music and movement is good for physicality and brain development.”

Skills learned at the library can be taken home, where parents can work with children to sing, talk, read, write and play – pillars of the “Every Child Ready to Read” early literacy movement.

In addition to having more space to welcome in more toddlers, Shields is also hoping to soon get additional instruments. Drums, triangles and bells could be in the future of the program, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. each Thursday in January.

Registration for January storytimes – including traditional storytimes with read-aloud books and crafts – opens at 9 a.m. Dec. 11. Due to high demand, classes can fill up quickly so librarians encourage those interested to even set a phone reminder to register immediately.

To register, visit hcplibrary.org or call 317-462-5141.