Reading Across Genres


To have learned something for the child, is only a point of departure - Maria Montessori

If there is one thing that stands out in the memory of parents who read to their children, it is that children will often want the same book read to them every time. They want a certain book, on repeat, until the parents have that story up to their gills, and then just when the parent resigns themselves, to having read Green Eggs and Ham, for the umpteenth time, off goes the apple of their eye, to some other new obsession, dropping the old one like a hot potato.


I’m sure you are nodding your head in the affirmative. Been there, done that?


If not a book, it is a toy or an interest. They are obsessed with one interest for weeks or months, maybe even a few years. They become mini experts at that interest/subject and can spew facts, like an over enthusiastic dragon breathing fire.


This is where we step in, educators and parents. Like conniving reading magicians, we help cast a reading spell over a possibly reluctant reader, by drawing on their current interest/obsession, by introducing books about that topic. Be it cars, dinosaurs, the Titanic….or maybe even dance or music. This is fool proof...I have used this idea with my own children and with my students too. Once they have caught in the reading net...the net being a current interest or obsession, they will move on to books with different themes soon enough, with a well informed adult on hand to guide them.


Let us assume your child is learning music or just enjoys listening to music. Harness their interest in music by introducing all kinds of books. Eager to learn everything about their current interest, children will soak in all kinds of details and information about music, unwittingly being exposed to a range of genres too.

What is genre? Quite simply, a genre is a form of text that uses a particular format and structure (Duke & Purcell-Gates, 2003).

Children need to be guided and helped to understand the different genres. When they know that there are different kinds of texts, each with its own features, purposes, and conventions, they will be empowered to choose books according to what they feel like reading or on the information they would like to find, satisfying their curiosity and need for that moment in time. Reading across genres will deepen their understanding of a subject, increase their vocabulary, and empower them to know and understand their preferences, empowering them to make their own book choices.



Let me illustrate this with books about music:

FICTION



MOLE MUSIC by David McPhail Fantasy This is a simple, beautiful story about a mole who feels like something is missing from his life. When he sees a man play a violin on TV, he realises that he would like to make beautiful music too. He patiently practices, day after day and learns to play, but he plays alone, in his underground home. He wonders what it would be like to play for others, not realising that his music has already been having an effect on a range of creatures above ground. This is a wonderful book that illustrates the far-reaching effects of tiny actions done with good intentions and passion.




WHAT A SONG published by Eklavya Folktale This story, a favourite of mine, is a traditional folktale from the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh which illustrates the power of a good song sung at the right time.

 

NON-FICTION




THE MUSIC OF LIFE: BARTHOLOMEO CHRISTOFORI AND THE INVENTION OF THE PIANO by Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

This book tells the inspiring story of the invention of the world’s most popular instrument: the piano. Bartolomeo Cristofori coaxes just the right sounds from the musical instruments he makes. Some of his keyboards can play piano, light and soft; others make forte notes ring out, strong and loud, but Cristofori longs to create an instrument that can be played both soft and loud. By observing things around him in the city of Florence, this musical instrument maker comes up with a keyboard that can be played both loud and soft. Pianoforte or put simply...the piano.



BAAJA by Mamta Nainy This wonderful book introduces children to Indian music and musical instruments. Filled with trivia, stories about the history as well as notes about the construction and sounds of a range of Indian musical instruments and instrument families.

 

BIOGRAPHY



DO RE MI: IF YOU CAN READ MUSIC, THANK GUIDO D’AREZZO by Susan L. Roth This book tells the story of a monk named Guido D’Arezzo, who came up with the system of music notation, so that a piece of music can be read and played the same way as it was first played.



THE STORY OF TANSEN: THE MASTER OF MELODY by Sharad Kohli and Urmimala Nag This beautifully illustrated book is a retelling of the life of Tansen, India's legendary musician, composer and singer, who became one of Mughal Emperor Akbar's Navaratnas.


 

POETRY/ RHYME / SONG



ZIN ZIN ZIN A VIOLIN by Llyod Moss This fun book with its zany illustrations, is written in rhyme. In a jazzy alliterative style it introduces each orchestra instrument and counts upwards in the number names for groups of musicians. (Solo, duo, trio, quartet all the way up to nonet and a chamber) A fun way to learn the names of the orchestra instruments and the names for a group of musicians.



I KNOW A SHY FELLOW WHO SWALLOWED A CELLO by by Barbara S. Garriel and John O'Brien This is a fun rhyming book which can be read or even better sung to ‘I know an old lady who swallowed a spider.’ This book takes the reader through a list of instruments, a fun and silly rhyming text.

 

In whatever manner you may choose to expose children to different genres, make it fun. Reading should be encouraged joyfully.

Stretch their interest beyond books by taking them to music concerts, listening to a wide variety of music, joining them in a fun at-home performance or even watching a movie about a musician....in this case, or apply the same ideas to other interests they may have.


“However, if literature is food for thought, then, then we must work towards providing a balanced diet. It is fine if your child has a packet of potato chips once in a while. But, if you notice that potato chips is all she eats, you would want to work towards (a) replacing junk food with good food as a habit; and (b) encouraging your child to eat a wide variety of good foods. Likewise, with reading, we have to work towards building both discerning reading habits and wide reading habits in our children.” Educationist Shailaja Menon.

 

This post was originally written for The Bookwallis Facebook page.

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