My friend and fellow early childhood musician Susan Salidor of Chicago recently posted “Five Rules of the Subversive Preschool Music Specialist” (copied in full at the end of this post). She encouraged her fellow music teachers not to shy away from singing about social justice and to encourage self-respect, kindness and empowerment through song.
With Susan’s thoughts in mind, I’m heading into the Martin Luther King holiday and Black History Month in February and want to share a couple of ideas for getting preschoolers singing about these important topics.
One of the best early childhood songs for MLK Day was one Susan herself passed along, Chris Inserra’s “I Have a Dream.” Click on the name of the song to see Susan’s video. This song is powerful and effective for young children because it repeats the same lyrics several times. It helps children to remember that one of MLK’s enduring legacies is to inspire us to live our dreams, regardless of our color, ethnicity, income level or background. The lyrics are:
I have a dream, yes I do (repeat 3x)
Said Martin Luther King.
(1) I dream that children black and white
Will play together and not fight (or I added the following alternative line):
Will share a future that is bright.
(2) I dream of better schools for all,
For all the children, big and small.
(3) Around the world, we will be free
To live together peacefully.
(4) To overcome the fear and hate,
Our hearts can love, it’s not too late.
I added a visual: hearts with illustrations for the different verse lines. I created enough so each child in the circle can choose a heart and talk about what’s in the illustration. Most of my children are pre-readers, so I can then let them know what the words of the song say.
While we’re on hearts, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, another excuse to sing about love and kindness and passing around the good feelings.
This year, I’ve chosen to teach my children Val Smalkin’s “Love in Your Jelly.” It’s a catchy tune with a great message and a gentle touch of humor. The chorus goes:
Put love in your heart, put love in your belly
Spread love on your toast, spread love in your jelly
Put love everywhere that you can find
Put love in your heart and your mind.
By the by, this song is good for teaching basic body part locations, since some young children think their heart is actually in their belly (or in their neck). I’ve also endeavored to explain what the “mind” is and how it’s different from the brain. Tricky!
Val sang this song last summer during her appearance on The Curious Giraffe Show, produced by my colleague Dorothy Cresswell for public media in Amherst, MA. The show goes for a half hour, and you can find the song right at 26 minutes, near the end. Or watch the whole show to see Dorothy’s fun show and Ms. Val’s excellent work as a ventriloquist with her sidekick Silly Goose.
Here, as promised, are Susan’s five rules for a subversive music specialist. She specifies “preschool,” but it seems these work for sharing music with any age.