Listening is becoming a learned art and most children probably need to brush up on this skill after a summer away from school. The question becomes how can we have fun and refocus, namely re-hone the listening skills, as summer comes to a close. There is no better way than to listen to music with stories. After a summer of lots of physical exercise, it is a good way to get the brain back, that most complex of muscles, into shape.
The Maestro Classics series (MP3s/CD) offers music with narration that will not only challenge your child’s brain – classical music is more complex than camp songs – but will also impart a bit of history along with a good measure of fun. Parents will enjoy listening to the music as the kids (these are splendid performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra), and each recording offers something to talk about after listening. In short, parents can become fun teacher. I recommend listening in the car and/or while making dinner in the kitchen. For pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade, I recommend Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. For the youngest child, sitting on your lap as you look at the pictures (this classic book is available in all libraries as well as on Amazon) as you listen to the music, will be a delightful time for both of you. It will impart lots of good feelings about story time and afterwards you can sing the Mike Mulligan Song together. The older child can point out words and read a bit here and there. Older children will enjoy the tracks about the author and what to listen for in the music and probably the karaoke track at the end. Loyalty, friendship, obsolescence, topics addressed in this story, make for good dinner table conversation. No child should grow up without knowing Peter and the Wolf and the MC recording also has some great Russian folk music on the CD. Juanita the Spanish Lobster is a very funny story that is appropriate for 2nd grade and up. My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music takes you into English history and what was going on in Europe at the time of Benjamin Franklin. Ages 9+ Casey at the Bat is very good preparation for that mandatory poem memorization that always happens around 5th grade. It is particularly appealing to boys as there is nothing sentimental about America’s best known baseball poem. Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale is probably the most sophisticated work in the series and not only offers great music, but themes about wealth and happiness and discovering what is important to you in life. And, there are many other works in the series. I suggest that you have fun as you exercise that brain and get it ready for the year ahead! Click here to read the article "In an Increasingly Visual World, Listening is a Learned Art" for further information on how to open your ears and exercise your mind.