Stories are so powerful. Stories (in books and in music) can connect us to each other and break down barriers that at first seem insurmountable. Reading stories to a class is a fantastic way to build relationships and class culture, especially for those students who have a hard time connecting through academics. 

One of my favorite things to do is read books to my music students. I love adding special voices, and showing the pictures, and watching their eyes start to sparkle as they connect with something happening in the story.

Today I’m sharing ten of my favorite books to read and sing to my elementary music classes.

A-Hunting We Will Go

A-Hunting We Will Go by Steven Kellogg takes the traditional melody and adds verses that make this into a sweet bedtime story. The kids in the story don’t want to go to bed, but through the verses like, “a-brushing we will go,” and “a-hugging we will go,” they prepare for bed and the final page ends with a beautiful picture of the kids and all their animal friends in bed, “and off to sleep we’ll go.”

Down by the Bay

Down by the Bay is a folk song made popular in the 80’s by Raffi. This version is illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott and my students love the very comical llamas eating pajamas and bear combing its hair. The end is a perfect lead into a mini-lesson on creating new lyrics that rhyme for a familiar song. (improvisation – check!)

Give the Dog a Bone

My students love talking about their pets, so Give the Dog a Bone by Steven Kellogg is always a favorite! The sweet illustrations add an extra story to the basic counting folk song. Be sure to check out Steven Kellogg’s other singing books and tall tale stories.

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown pairs well with I See the Moon. As I read the book, I try to sing the song as I turn the pages. This gives my students many chances to hear the song before they sing it. And it gives my students a glimpse into an old-fashioned world that brings up great discussion. 

The Lady with the Alligator Purse

The Lady with the Alligator Purse, adapted by Nadine Bernard Westcott, is my transition from the folk song Mother, Mother to the jumprope rhyme Miss Lucy Had a Baby. It follows the basic storyline of Mother, Mother with some hilarious additions – my students love to see the baby trying to eat the bathtub! 

Little Bunny Foo Foo

I love teaching the finger play for Little Bunny Foo Foo to my Kindergarteners. It’s the perfect “line song” that we can audiate in the hallway if our teacher is running late. The book Little Bunny Foo Foo, as told by The Good Fairy and illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson, is a fun extension to the basic song. My students think it’s a riot to watch the little bunny scooping up the different forest animals and getting in trouble at the end. It has the traditional notation in the back in case you don’t know the song. 

The Was a Man and He Was Mad

There Was a Man and He Was Mad is a folk song adapted by John Feierabend and illustrated by Aaron Joshua. The book goes right along with the Jill Trinka recording (Had a Little Rooster) to give your voice a much-needed rest. My students think the story is hilarious! 

To Market To Market

I seem to have many songs about cooking and animals in my repertoire! That’s why this book, To Market To Market by Anne Miranda and illustrated by Janet Stevens, is such a great addition to my class library. Recently, I’ve paired this chant with the chant Chop, Chop, Chippity Chop. The pictures are a mix of photos and realistic drawings, which give it a unique feel. The story gets crazier as the lady makes trips to the market to get ingredients for her dinner, and those ingredients start destroying her home! Veggie-lovers will cheer at the end when she ends up making vegetable soup for herself and the animals. 

Over in the Jungle

My K-1st students love to sing along with Over in the Meadow, so naturally this song story is a perfect extension. Over in the Jungle by Marianne Berkes has beautiful illustrations by Jeanette Canyon – the bright colors really make the story come alive as you travel through the jungle. And my students love learning about the honey bear and the marmoset! 

What Will Gat Cat Sit On?

What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas is a funny book with very few words in large print. Your higher students will be able to recognize some of the words, plus the punctuation (question marks and exclamation marks abound!). Be prepared for some silliness with these characters – my students roll on the floor with this one.

These are just ten of my favorite books to read and sing to my students! Check out more books on the Sweet Sounds blog.

What books do you like to read to your classes?

Lori Sweet

Lori Sweet has taught music in Texas, Kentucky, and Indiana. She has given workshops across the country and is an advocate for quality music education. Lori is Kodaly certified and has taught elementary music for over 15 years.