Monday, November 19, 2012

Print Motivation; It's Personal With Me

I just finished making and posting short videos for the six early reading skills, and one of them is print motivation. As I say in the video, "It's just loving books. Children love to read because they see you read, and they love you to read to them."

I realized today what a profound understatement that was. I grew up in a house where we absorbed that. fact. I don't remember being told, but instead experienced the belief that any answer could be found in a book. I do remember my father saying to me, "As long as you have a book you will never be lonely."

But here's how I really absorbed print motivation. My parent's bedroom was filled with books- a whole wall of them several shelves high. There were books on their headboard which actually had cupboards to hold... more books! The only other piece of furniture in their room was a large oak file cabinet which housed manila  file folders on everything under the sun (including one for each of us four children- and I still have mine), my father's underwear, and an emergency can of coffee. What can I say. The man had his priorities straight!

My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease when I about five, and the first thing my father did was sit us all down with a very large medical book he had purchased. We were going to learn all we could about this new uninvited guest.

Years later, when I was was searching for answers to my own physical problems, I bought a book that contained the latest and quite controversial information. According to the book and my symptoms, I felt pretty certain I had endometreosis. At that time many doctors didn't "believe" it was a real condition. I carried that book around with me until I found a doctor who was willing to read the few pages I'd marked. He even made copies. He did surgery and told me my (non-existent) condition had been so severe I probably wouldn't be able to have children. I got pregnant almost immediately, and then had a second child. Years later when my son's middle-school assignment was to interview a parent about the the most influential book in his or her life, there was no contest; Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones. I told my son that without that book I don't think he would have been born. As it turned out he had to give an oral book report, and I guess it led to quite a discussion about the influence of non-fiction books!

A close second for completely different reasons was The McCall's Make-it Book, published in 1953. About ten years ago I was reminiscing with my sister (an endless well for us!), and asked if she remembered that book. She said emphatically, "Remember it? It was like your second mother!" By then the Internet gave us the ability to track down obscure long-gone books, and I actually located a copy and purchased it. I can't tell you the physical, mental, and emotional response I had as I opened the box and looked at the cover. Every single one of the 200 pages was familiar. And as I read the text and looked at the pictures I was stunned to see the respect with which this book written in the fifties spoke directly to the child. It pictured girls using wood-shop tools, boys knitting, and didn't talk down. No child who had this book could ever be bored or lacking in imagination (I know what those of you who know me are thinking.... that explains my affinity for props- and you're probably right!).

So why am I sharing all of this with you? Because print motivation is no small thing. It is life-changing and lifelong. I see it with my two young grandchildren now. Books are shaping their lives, leading to conversations and teaching them to think. It's more than just "reading to your child every day." It's having lots and lots of books around, and using them, and going to the library all the time and getting more books.. and talking more about them. It's a lifestyle. And yes, I love technology, but there is nothing like the feel and smell and accessibility and sharing together of a real book. And singing and reading walk hand in hand. Rhythm is music is language is reading. Songs are portable literacy.You read with children when you can sit and be still and be able to turn the pages. But a song can go anyplace with you, from the car to the changing table to the bathtub. Reading and singing both can teach, and heal, and connect, and inspire. And this project seeks to insure you are never lacking in either. So yes, for me print motivation is personal!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Singing With Children; Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

As we are all racing around trying to get a million things done, it's easy to forget the magic that can occur when we sing a simple song with our children. Young children are learning at an astounding pace, and the research tells us that the number of words a child knows upon entering kindergarten (vocabulary) is a leading indicator not only of later success in reading, but in graduating from high school! Songs are an incredible way for them to increase both their vocabulary, and their understanding of language. Melodies break words into syllables (phonemic awareness) and are packed with words we don't use every day (like curds and whey and water spout!). They have built-in patterns and repetition, building memory and increasing retention.   That's why it's so important songs are sung slowly enough that that children can hear the words, and then be able to sing along. Think about it. When you're having a conversation with a child, he is listening and you are talking. But when you sing, you are experiencing language together. It's an amazing thing! Of course children are just learning about all this language business, and as they begin to understand they can make sounds that are actual words, many children love to hear themselves sing every single syllable. It's all too easy for us as adults to sing so fast that our children can't keep up, and so are unable to participate. The first few years I sang with young two-year-olds, I (and the other teachers) didn't question the fact the the children weren't singing along. After all, they were only two! At some point I realized they needed time to process what I was singing, and what a huge part repetition played in that, as well as slow, deliberate singing. All you really have to do is take your cue from your child! Finger plays (like The Isty Bisty Spider) are a great way to pace your singing, as you will naturally slow down in order for your child to do the motions.

Just watching and being aware of your child's attempt to join you can "regulate" your speed. Slowing down your singing will allow your child to hear the syllables in the words, as well as their context and sentence structure, and give them the ability to sing along. Those little vocal muscles have to work harder than yours to keep up!

One more note...
We all have our favorite music to listen to, and my two young grandchildren love to dance to upbeat music just like all kids do But I intentionally also play simple children's music that has a melody and simple accompaniment so again, they can hear and replicate the words. My daughter validated this when she called me after a car trip with the kids and said, "Mother- your recording (Little Songs For Little Me) is brilliant!" Her son was trying very hard to sing along with every word, because he could. She had been playing faster music, and realized singing along at that pace wasn't even an option for him.  I made that recording twenty-five years ago, when I had just begun singing with children. I learned by watching them. And that's why I sang slowly. They taught me that, and pretty much everything else I've learned about singing with young children over the last thirty years.

So slow it down and enjoy the ride (and the song!). 

The Grand Experiment

Hello Friends!

After a short break in blog postings after the end of the fundraiser, it's time to get back in the saddle. As you know or can imagine, the fundraiser took most of my time, taking away from the time I could spend on the actual project. And now it's  time to take stock and access the project so far. The main goal, of course, was to raise funds to build the website which will be free to access and use. But there were some unintended benefits apart from the money raised, and as it turns out, they are every bit as important.

1. I connected with new families and reconnected with people I haven't seen or talked to in years- or even decades; people that are very important to me. For that I'm so grateful.

2. The fundraiser forced me to define and promote the project. I'm realizing now, that without it, I'm not sure how I would have gotten the word out. So that was invaluable.

3. Comments posted on the Indiegogo site and by people I met promoting it reaffirmed the need and hunger for this project. It reaffirmed this is the right place and the right time.

So even though as the fundraiser was going I felt I was neglecting the project, I see it inadvertently laid the groundwork I; we;  will need for success. And here's why the project will be successful:
Though there are many websites that have information on early learning and music, there are none that have the combination of resources all in one place for anyone to use; and none that include the unique live pilot project we are undertaking. No matter how much impact the pilot project has in the community, it will be hugely successful for providing a roadmap to other communities from the smallest detail to the general plan. So nothing we do here will be wasted. Every link in the community chain that runs from child to teacher to home to grandparent to church to far-flung family members will be documented in a way that has never been done. And you. the reader, will have this gift for the taking. So keep posted, join in, and take it all!

Here are 3 things you can do today to become part of the Sing With Our Kids Movement!

1. Join the mailing list at so you don't miss any website content or event!
2. Tell everyone you know about the project, and encourage teachers to use the website materials
3. Sing with your kids! Take those moments during the day when you're together, whether changing a diaper, riding in the car, pushing a stroller, at bathtime.... and just sing!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sing With Our Kids Day 3 Countdown Idea

Dinosaur Fun:

Do you know how big the biggest dinosaur egg ever to be discovered was? About as big as a 12-inch balloon! Kids love this..
Slowly blow up a 12-inch balloon, telling children you're going to show the how big the biggest dinosaur egg discovered is. You can stop along the way at the chicken egg, and the largest egg today, the ostrich (about 6 inches). Then slowly keep blowing until you get to the full 12 inches. Tie a knot, and toss it behind you.

Now sing the traditional song, Here's a Baby Birdie, beginning curled up in a ball, then move body, changing the words to:
Here's a baby dinosaur, he's hatching from his shell
Out comes his head, then comes his tail 
Next his legs he stretches, he gives a great big ROAR 
Then he stomps and stomps and stomps and sits back on the floor.
Down, down, down, down, down, down, down, BOOM!

If you don't know the song Here's A Baby Birdie you'll find it in the free song library at It should be up tomorrow or Sunday. 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sing With Our Kids Day 4 Countdown Idea

Here is your song idea of the day.

This one is easy...
  • Sing Bingo, using a dog and several other animal puppets. Give each puppet a name and spell it on a piece of paper or card stock ( I use rhyming "names" like Ringo, Jingo, Mingo
  • Sing Bingo, using the dog puppet first, having his paw point to the letters as you sing.
  • Then I say, "Bingo has some friends. Would you like to meet them?" Bingo disappears behind my back, and out comes a different animal who then points to the letters in his - or her- name. It's simple and silly, but the familiarity draws the kids in and it's great for letter knowledge!
And here is your friendly reminder that there are only 4 more days left to donate to Sing With Our Kids!  Here's the link to the campaign.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sing With Our Kids Day 5 Countdown Idea

Here is your song idea of the day: 

This is another great idea that came out of my Florida workshop last week. It's simple, but let's see if I can describe it easily!

This is a variation on my Four Little Paper Dolls song.
Here is a link to the song if you don't know it, and by the way, if you don't it's a real hit with the kids, so be sure to do it too!
Now- here is a way to expand your use of the song so you can use it for all kinds of things.
Instead of paper dolls, you're going to make a sturdy folding book. I would use cardboard, because you're going to use this a lot! I just by 8X10 photo mailing cardboad pieces found at office supply stores, but again, you can use or make what you have. 
  • To make a folding book that hinges properly, stack the first two pieces of cardboard and tape along one they are hinged when you open them. I use clear packing tape because it's nice and wide. 
  • Open the "pages" and flip them the other way, again stacking them, and tape the other side.Now your hinge will be taped on both sides of the cardboard. 
  • Add your next piece of cardboard and do the same thing, so now you have three pieces of cardboard that will lie flat and hinge back and forth.
  • And finally, add your last piece and tape it. Now you should have four pieces of cardboard that can lie flat and hinge back and forth, essentially making them work like paper dolls (the cut kind). 
  • Now for the easy and fun part. Place a small piece of Velcro in the middle of each "page." 
  • Cut out four of anything you want, (four letter, four teddy bears, four ducks, four cars, etc. ). Make whatever you want, but make all four identical. 
  • Laminate and put the other half of the Velcro piece on the back of each picture. 
  • Put one picture on each of your cardboard pages, and voila! Instead of Four Little Paper Dolls, you have four
     little _____ (whatever you've Velcro'd onto the pages). You can easily change the pictures to go with whatever you're doing. It's kind of like having the other kind of paper dolls, where you change the clothes! Hmm. That's kind of funny!
If you need any clarification for the above instructions, let me know! You know how to find me!

And here is your friendly reminder that there are only 5 more days left to donate to Sing With Our Kids!  Here's the link to the campaign. 

Thanks so much for your support!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sing With Our Kids 6 Day Countdown Idea

Here is your Countdown Song Idea of the Day:  Mystery Letter!

Prop: Put a letter in a small box, or a shoe box,  or any container you have handy. If you have a wooden or magnetic letter, great. Otherwise, just draw a letter on a piece of paper and put it in the box. If the letter is paper, put something else in the box so it makes noise when you shake it.


Sing the ABC Song with the kids. 
Then tell them you have a mystery letter in the box, and you're going to sing the ABC song again but you're going to stop when you get to the letter. Sing slowly shaking the box once for every letter, the kids singing with you. The sound of the letter in the box really peaks their interest! When you get to the letter, make a big deal of stopping and freezing. Then ask the kids what letter you stopped at... 

I have a "J" in my box. I then asked the kids if any of them had a "J" in their names, and we sang two of my songs with "J''s". JUMP, and To Market, To Market, both on . Both have printable pages with pictures, letters, and words. But you could just as easily read a book about something that starts with "J" (or whatever letter you have in the box).

Here's the link for JUMP

This activity has been a real hit because of the mystery element! And it helps children understand that the ABC song is made of separate letters. Encourage parents to do the same thing at home with letters in a box, and a book or song. Easy and fun! (I knew this was a good idea today when I finished a concert and the librarian said, "That's a great idea- I'm going to steal it!"

And here is your friendly reminder that the Indiegogo fundraiser ends in 6 days. So if you have already donated, thank you thank you! If you haven't, you can click here to learn more about the project and make a donation. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sing With Our Kids Song Idea and 8 Day Countdown

Here is your Song Idea of the Day:

This is an amazing and inspirational idea e-mailed to me by a librarian following a workshop I did in Florida (yes Florida!) last week. I am so excited to share with you- it's brilliant, simple, and something we will all want to do! I have included her story, since it's so wonderful and a good reminder to all of us about the important work we do. Notice she adapted Bluebird Through My Window. You can find that song on the Sing With Our Kids website. Here's the link.  Notice also, that there are bonus materials at (free, of course!) so be sure to get it all!!

Thank you, Rebekah for sharing your great idea with all of us!

 I just wanted to share a story from last week, following your training.

I have two jobs. I work at the public library but I am also the school librarian for a special needs school. Our students have intellectual disabilities. I do a storytime for the youngest kids every week. This week, the theme was pirates (to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day). I had never heard the Bluebird through my window song but I loved it and I adapted it for this theme. I changed it to “Bluebeard, Bluebeard, through my window”  and we pretended to look out of the window. Then, “Arrrr, mateys, be scared!” at the end. One of my little girls is not yet verbal. She can make sounds but is not yet processing words. I had 5 cards printed, each with a pirate that had a different colored beard on it, so we could change the song and sing, “Purplebeard” etc. On each chorus, she got very excited with the “Arrrr” and made this sound right along with us. At the end of the song, she pointed to her hand. I was not sure what this meant, so her teacher translated- she was asking for more! (One of her hands doesn’t function completely correctly, so she wasn’t making the sign I recognize, but an adapted one). She really loved this song! And I loved sharing something that I learned. You were right, there is something magical about that tune. She engaged immediately and communicated with me in a way she hadn’t before. It was awesome.

And here is your friendly reminder that the Indiegogo fundraiser ends in 8 days. So if you have already donated, thank you thank you! If you haven't, you can click here to learn more about the project and make a donation. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Song Tip of the Day and Final Fundraiser Countdown.

Let's make this final countdown fun and useful! 

Okay, so I've got eight days left to try to raise enough money to build the Sing With Our Kids website. I already made my initial plea, and some of you responded with lighting speed! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!  But you know how this fundraising thing works-  I'm supposed to remind (hound and harass) you until you remember (can't stand it anymore and decide you will do anything to make it stop), the theory being that that the squeaky (most annoying) wheel gets the grease, because we all know most people have to read something multiple times before acting on it.

I have NO desire to harass, annoy, or intimidate you. But here I am in the self-imposed position of having to... you know, raise funds!  And I'm an artist, so you know that doesn't come naturally. The good news is my passion for this project is superseding my discomfort with this business of raising money. So here's my plan to make it painless, and in fact productive for you (and me!) and FUN!

I will write a short post here for the next eight days, but instead of the dreaded nagging plea, I will simply give you a fun tip you can use whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, librarian, or care provider (and of course a short reminder of the fundraiser). Believe it or not, I have some really great new ones you don't know about yet!

That way, whether you've already donated, or are unable or don't want to, or keep planning to but need a reminder, you'll still get to take something away you can use in your work with young children.  And we all win! So just use and enjoy! In fact you might even want to print out and collect these ideas in your songs collection. And do let me know if there are any traditional songs you would like added to the song library so parents can sing them at home, too! That's the whole point, after all; creating continuity between what you are doing in story times and home; educating while building community through singing. So I really want to know what traditional or Nancy Stewart songs you are using (I only add mine, since I hold the copyrights). 

Here's Your Song Tip of the Day:
Simple variations for infants and toddlers for Who Has A Penny?  This song is available here, but tomorrow should also be available on

  • To use my Who Has a Penny song with infants, give each parent a large solid-colored item (like a big soft block), using only three different colors, as the song indicates)  and sing the song, having parents sing the repeated line with their babies. Of course that being said, you may want to change the song to add more different items.That's the beauty of a song. You get to be the boss of it!!
  • To use the song with young toddlers (too young to handle small objects usually used in the song) laminate animal pictures on card stock, and place on popsicle sticks. Parent can help guide child to hold up the animal as you sing, "Who has the doggy?" Parent sings to model, "I have the doggy." You only need to have  3 different animals, so you can make multiples of those three so each child can have one.You'll find the song at today, but it will also be on www.SingWithOurKids tomorrow.
  • Simple Early Literacy reminder tip for parents: The more you talk to your baby, the more words he or she will know, and the more success they will have with reading. Songs no only provide lots of words we don't even use every day ( like curds and whey and water spout), but putting them in a melody makes the language "stick." Its' just the way our brains work!
If you want to donate to or find out more about the Sing With Our Kids Project, click here: 

p.s. after today, you'll just get the tip and short reminder of fundraiser, not all the extra text as above!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sing With Our Kids is a Research Project!

Research, research, research!

In addition to being a resource website, is a research project. And that's why I've been passionate about including a nine-month pilot project in my own community as part of those resources.. Our culture and so many things about it have changed, especially when it comes to raising our children. And it just feels to me like it's time to take our pulse, to reassess; to adjust our thinking and our actions. So here are the questions I hope to if not answer, at least spark a conversation about. It's already happening. Everywhere I go as we talk about the project, the questions below arise. Together, over the next nine months, let's work together to try to find answers and solutions!

We don't need an official study to answer most of the questions below, but documenting this project will certainly add to the conversation and perhaps result in a ripple effect for positive changes (more singing!).

So here are the questions we will be asking and documenting:

1. Do we sing less with our children? (we already know the answer to that!)
2. If the answer is yes, (yes it is!), does it matter, and if so, why? ( we already know the answer to that, too!)
3. Do parents, teachers, and care providers know all of the benefits of singing with children? (again, I can tell you from my work, the answer is no!)
4. So here is the really big unanswered question...

If parents and care providers knew how important singing is to the development of young children (and all human beings!), would it make a difference? If they had the knowledge, and were given all the songs and tools, would they use them?

I am an optimist, as anyone who knows me can attest. So I believe the answer to that big unanswered question is YES! But I am also a realist, and I also know it's going to take a lot of work to make a difference. I believe it will take every bit of the nine months scheduled to change habits and behaviors. I believe this can only be accomplished with a BIG, BOLD, project with HIGH VISIBILITY and a LOT of HELP FROM YOU!!

So I hope you will participate in Sing With Our Kids. Here are some of the ways you can do that:

  1. Go to and sign up for updates, or leave comments
  2. Use the website, and share it with teachers, parents, grandparents, and caregivers
  3. Click on the Indiegogo link( Indiegogo Sing With Our Kids Campaign )and watch the video, and read about the project. The fundraiser will only be going on during September.
  4. Make a donation, however small, and or leave a comment. Comment about how you sing with your kids, how you remember your parents singing with you, camp memories, how excited you are about the project, anything that might inspire others to sing with their kids!

This is important work we are all doing, raising our children and building our future community. And there is no doubt that singing makes that important work more joyful, more fun, and more productive!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to School. Let's Sing!

As I start my school visits back up, I'm excited to be able to use the project materials myself! I'll send a letter home to the parents explaining the project (you'll be able to download the same letter yourself at, so you don't have to reinvent it!). Then as I add songs, just print out the sign for that sign and post it outside each classroom. It will have a QR code so parents can read it when they pick up their kids and immediately have the song! Or, of course, download it from the alphabetical list when they get home Of course they'll have the website bookmarked! Why didn't I think of this years ago! It's so simple, and will make such a difference. The kids I see are in daycare, and I'm a visiting music specialist, so I never even see them. The songs will be such a great way to connect - for all of us!

Don't forget! You can help build the website by donating to the project at Indiegogo. Here's the link. Please share this with anyone you know who has or works with young children. The campaign only goes for 27 more days!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

We did it! We're live!

Wow! What a tense suspense-filled last 24 hours leading up to the launch of Sing With Our Kids yesterday!You know how the story ends, but since you've been here with me for the last 30 days of counting down, I'll fill you in on the gory details!

Friday night, 8:30 pm. 

I finally had a chance to make it to my computer to work on the Indiegogo campaign, which I full intended to have finished days ago (life making other plans again!).

Here's how it went...

Really tired from too many late nights, and having trouble writing the campaign text.
Decided to take a break and upload the video which has been on my desk for the last 3 months.
Oops! Where is that CD? No, really, where it it? It's been here for THREE MONTHS!!!
Uh-oh, it really doesn't seem to be around... next hour spent turning my office upside-down. 
Okay, found a DVD with the master video... need to convert it to mp4... How do you do that?
I haven't a clue! (and as it turned out from a quick Google search, I needed a program).
Okay, an hour later I have bought and downloaded a program, converted the movie, and it looks fine.
Whew! crisis avoided!
Upload to YouTube. .................. What??? Why is my mouth out of sync with the video? 
Try a few more things then realize I am REALLY brain dead now... Go to bed....
Next day, call my brother-in-law who is a computer tech.... 
He takes the DVD to his office to try converting using another program....

Meanwhile, I'm back to trying to finish writing the text but I'm having some kind of writer's block.  I feel panic creeping in... our official launch is about 3 hours away, and the Indiegogo site isn't ready to go live, and the website can't go live until it does......... 
Call my brother(webmaster) and discuss moving the countdown clock on my artist website and missing the deadline. . No! This can't be happening! (Where in the world could that CD have gone..) Did I mention it had been sitting innocently on my desk for the last 3 months?.......

Called my daughter who is a middle school language arts teacher, for help editing the text. Boy is she good! Great edits. Then my brother-in-law came by with new version of video. It looks like it might work when we upload it to YouTube... an hour and a half  'til launch. Maybe we can do it after all!

My sister stops by to see if I'm still alive! She is among other things,  a researcher and academic writer. She edits. Has wonderful suggestions! (so sorry I took your things without asking when we were growing up!) 
An hour 'til launch.

I finish the text and upload all the parts to Indiegogo. It presents me with a checklist that needs to be complete before the site goes live. What? Checklist? Don't panic, I tell myself... there is still an hour! 
Oh good, it just wants me to complete my profile. Easy! I do it and press enter... It says I need to complete my profile.. But I did, I tell my computer... the clock is ticking loudly now, and that's funny because it's digital..I calmly enter my info again; e-mail, photo, bio...and click enter... Again it says, enter your profile! I do this a few more times.

That's it, I think, I'm doomed! So close and yet so far! So I did that thing we do when we run into walls on the computer and start behaving irrationally. I started pushing buttons, exiting the site, re-entering, pushing more buttons mindlessly (that digital clock is really ticking now, I'm sure of it!), and right there....before my very said "complete!" I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. There before me was the "live" button, just waiting for me to click on it. This was it.... I.....clicked on it! 

Ta da!!! WE'RE LIVE!!!!!!
I call my brother and tell him to throw the switch on the website and connect the Indiegogo links.

Still time to walk my poor dog who's been sitting patiently (okay, not really patiently) waiting, waiting for his walk. So I figure ten minutes, I can do it. Ran into a neighbor walking his dogs. Making conversation, he asked what I was doing with my music these days.. I spilled it all! And said I had to be at Island Books in half an hour. He said, (and I kid you not), "HALF an hour? You better go put some makeup on and those hippie clothes or something. You better do something!" 

So the happy ending, is, we got the Indiegogo site up, we got the website up, and I had the loveliest group of families with young children and grandparents, and Nancy and Roger Page the owners, and yes, my neighbor Warren who came down to support me! We sang songs and read and sang books, and everyone had a great time. I soaked up every minute of the twirling and dancing and singing! It was a true celebration, and everyone there knew how hard I have been working, and they have been my cheerleaders. 

I don't mean to be political, but right now I am acutely aware (as I have always been, but for some reason it's become controversial to say) that none of us does anything alone. I could not have done this, the Mt Everest of my career without the love and support of my family, friends, and fans. We are the village!

So now onto the actual project! Walking my dog Jack today, I already have more ideas for the website and project! 

So thank you for being here for me, for allowing me to create and flesh out the plan through this blog. It's been its own little journey!

And oh yes, please donate or share, or leave comments, or all three at
And one more thing... be sure and watch the video!

Stay tuned for regular posts and updates! As we say in our family, "We're really on our way now!"

Friday, August 31, 2012

Almost There!

We're down to the wire now, and of course, running into some technical difficulties! So stay tuned, and I'll let you know when the website and Indiegogo campaign are live. We're soooo close!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Countdown 1 Day!

Burning the Midnight Oil

Today was one of those days that makes you think of the old quote "Life is what happens while you're making other plans!"  And so I'm behind as my self-imposed deadline closes in. But today my two-year granddaughter kept taking my finger and telling me to get "up, up" to dance with her as the music played. So we danced and danced and danced as her brother slept. And after all, isn't  that what this whole project is about? I may be behind, but today was a good day!

Now back to the midnight oil!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Countdown 2 Days!

The Final Stretch!

As I enter the last two days before the official launch of  The Sing With Our Kids Project and Website, I turn my attention to building my Indiegogo fundraiser campaign. If you're not familiar with this fairly new way of harnessing the power of the Internet, it's really quite amazing. It's also a project in itself (I've been working on it off and on for the last six months). I have such a vision for this project and all it can provide for our children, our families, and our communities; of what we can do together, and I'm confident it will be a success. But now it's time to make my case to you, to my community, and to the many friends and colleagues I have around the world. When the campaign goes live this Saturday, we'll have only 30 days to raise enough money to build the website that will provide the tools for us to sing, connect, and learn together. And as I said, putting together the online campaign is a big project in itself. assembling informative and compelling text, deciding on perks (donor thank you gifts), putting up the video, and much more. It's been such an interesting experience, and something I never could have imagined doing. And yikes! I only have two days-  So I better get back to work!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Countdown 3 Days!

Today’s preview of the Sing With Our Kids website:

One of the things in the Community Toolbox will be the official "Sing With Our Kids Campfire Sing-along Kit." This will include about 15 traditional songs in (in large print) with guitar chords you can print out and put in binders, fun ideas for how to have a "campfire" indoors or out, and in the middle of winter, and even the requisite s'mores recipe! Of course you'll also be able to download the songs and make a CD. So if you want, you can put it on and sing along! - Just one more way I hope the technology of the website will result in warm fuzzy memories of live singing with your friends and family, and maybe even as your little ones fall asleep surrounded by community singing...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Countdown 4 Days!

Today’s preview of the Sing With Our Kids website and Live Project!

Okay, so yesterday with the deadline looming large, I was panic-stricken! But after a productive day working on the website with my webmaster, and giving the first staff workshop to teachers participating in the project, I'm just plain excited! 

So what exactly is going to happen on September first at the end of this countdown?

Here's What!

1. www.SingWithOurKids will go live! Although it will start with minimal content, you'll be able to see my   vision as you explore the site. And every day after that  there will be new songs, ideas, and information. It will be unlike any other early learning website, and all free!

2. My Indiegogo Fundraiser campaign will launch. We'll try to raise $10,000 to pay for the website development over the next nine months. The campaign will only be 30 days (oh no, another countdown!), and if we don't reach the goal I'll fund the site personally. So either way, it's happening!

3. Public Kick-off Celebration at Island Books on Mercer Island, one of my partners in the project.  Each month I'll take a book based on a song  right off their shelves and read and sing it! Parents will be given information on using these books, and a book list of the best ones currently available. We'll do some wiggle songs from the website, and I'll explain how the project will work.. We'll finish the event with a sing-along song, and I'll have lyric sheets. So if you live in teh Seattle area, join us at Island Books this Saturday, September 1st, at 6:30 pm- and bring your neighbors and friends! We'll be building new old traditions, and I can't wait!

Please share this post! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Counting Down the Last 5 Days!

Today’s Preview of the Sing With Our Kids Website: The Shrinking Great American Folk Song

One of the advantages of having sung with children for so many years (and yes, having been a child myself), is that I have a perspective on how our culture has changed. And as I'm sure you'll agree, the American folk song is shrinking! Those old songs that seemed to go on forever and ever (long enough for a bus ride to camp or a trip to Grandma's house) are just about down to a single chorus! A couple of years ago I was singing Jingle Bells with a large group of children and we were having a rollicking good time until  I got to "dashing through the snow...." Suddenly I was singing solo as the children looked on with perplexed little faces! What in the world was I singing about?

It was only a few years ago that children knew all three of the most common verses, and we all laughed at the funny sounding words...( just what the heck does  "up-sot" mean, anyway?). It was fun, and interesting and yes, silly! What does it matter you may wonder? Well, first let me first tell you that the chorus of Jingle Bells sung repeatedly by itself is kind of a chore. The real fun, it turns out, is in those crazy old words! And when we forget how these songs go, we won't be able to sing them together. And when we can't sing these songs together, they won't be replaced. They aren't being replaced. But the good news is, they are still here, and all we have to do to not lose them is use them! Sing With Our Kids will be there to make sure we do - in all their fully restored funny word-filled glory!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

One Week From Today!

Yup, after over a year of planning, the Sing With Our Kids website and project is about to begin!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website- Our Best Friend- the Public Library!

Today I received the final draft of the list of Books That Sing. My local librarian, the Amazing Margaret Martin, has been working very hard on this invaluable resource. We met a couple of weeks ago and spent hours going through piles of books- my favorites, her favorites  and some neither of us were familiar with. I took a pile home and "tested" them with my two young grandchildren (and as a result my book purchases will be going up this month!). 

These books based on traditional and original songs, as well as books with strong rhythm, are like gold when you're looking for something to fully engage restless (or any) children. There will be lots of information on their use on on the website, but having this current list and where to locate them in the library is incredibly exciting! One of my frustrations has always been that these books are not all in one place, either at the library or in book stores. So you don't know what is out there, or how to find it! Armed with this list, you will be able to check out or order them from your local library. I can't wait to make my own way through this list to find the hidden treasures I haven't seen before. Between my own grandchildren and the hundreds of children I see at school visits, they will get a thorough workout and review! 

My local book store, Island Books, will be carrying a collection of these books that are in print. Once they are out of print, you can sometimes find them on Amazon, but the last time I tried to find one that was only a few years old, it was $250! So I say buy them now if they are in print and you love them (and by the way, the average length of time a book is available on book store shelves- 6 months!), or take advantage of our free society's best resource- the public library! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Countdown 8 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: A Short Questionnaire For You

Okay. This will just take a minute...

1. Ask yourself if if you are comfortable singing? (If your answer is yes, skip question number two)
2. If you answered no, do you wish you were comfortable singing?
3. Do you want your children to be comfortable singing?

As I talk about the project with new people every day, nine times out of ten, the response is this,
" Oh that's so great! Of course, I can't sing but I wish I could!"

Well that's the thing... we all can! I am learning that the key word in the project title is "with."
If the project is successful, your children will be singing. And just as importantly, so will you!  I learned a lot from workshops presented for early childhood teachers called, "Help! I can't Sing, but I want to!" And I will share what I have learned and build on it on the website. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Countdown 9 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: First Sing With Our Grand Kids Events Scheduled!

I'm excited to be able to announce dates for the first Sing With Our Grand Kids events at the Mercer Island Library.These are for adults only! So if you know grandparents with children under five (or expectant grandparents!) living in the Seattle area, please share this information with them. 

7 PM  Thursday September 13th  
7 PM  Thursday October 11th
7 PM  Thursday November 15th

We'll remember favorite old songs and how to use them to share family history and traditions, 
talk about how singing builds early learning and early literacy skills, and how to use technology to stay connected with your grand kids whether they live across the street or across the globe! 

There are more and more grandparents bringing their grandchildren to my concerts, and at the same time more and more grandparents whose grandchildren live far away. There will be so many ways to use the website resources, and we'll talk about them all! And of course there will be time left for bragging and photo sharing!  
    - disclaimer: I am the proud and very involved grandmother of two young children myself, so
      I have a vested interest in this part of the project!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Countdown 10 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Songs, Songs, and More Songs! 

The SingWithOurKids website will give you direct access to over 150 free songs already available on my artist website, Many of these songs have printable pages to make your own books, patterns for felt shapes, printable activities, and instructions for homemade instruments you can use with with the songs. And many also have instrumental versions, so you can download and sing along with them or use them as instrumental accompaniment for your school music program. Sing With Our Kids will add a large collection of traditional songs, so between the two merged collections, you will have at your fingertips all of the music you should need! And don't forget you can request a favorite traditional song to be added to the library (traditional songs are folk songs that are not copyrighted. That way I can legally record them without paying).I'll begin adding songs when the project starts on September 1st, and keep adding throughout the nine-month project. So while you're waiting for September 1st, go on over to and start "shopping" for those free songs! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Countdown 11 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids: Let's Share!

One of the things that will make so rich in content will be your input and experiences. And since I have had my artist site ( for twelve years, I have a wealth of expertise waiting in the wings. Over the years I've received many e-mails from librarians, preschool and kindergarten teachers, ELL teachers, speech therapists, music therapists, and special ed teachers, Each has noted specific songs they've found valuable in their work, and many have shared how they have come up with their own ideas.There is a lot of wisdom, a lot of experience, and a lot of expertise. So let's use it!

On the SIngWithOurKids website I'll have a sharing section, where experts (if you had an idea that works, you're an expert!) either professional or not, can share their wisdom and experience. I'll put together a standard format for their submission, which will include a paragraph or two about their area of expertise, a suggested list of songs they've used successfully (which willl of course have links to the free downloads), and a short comment about the specific value of each song. For example, a special education teacher might talk about autism, and list several songs she has found work, and what she likes about them. Or a teacher might write about how she or he has changed or expanded a song, or made a prop to use with it. 

I realize I already have a team of experts in my saved e-mails, and I will be inviting them to share their wonderful expertise and experience with you. If you have used songs from and would like to share your experience or wisdom, send me an e-mail or write a post. I'd love to hear from you!

The beauty of songs is that are jumping off places! When I share a song with you, it becomes your song. You might make up different words or tune, or think of a completely different way to use it. In this way the SIngWIthOurKids website will truly belong to all of us. And that will be success!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Countdown 12 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Let's re-define free!

Okay, I have to reiterate what I think is the most important feature of the Sing With Our Kids website. It will be totally free. But let's define free..

In looking for resources to add to the webiste, I spent an hour last night, trying to access some "free" materials. After clicking past 4 pop-up windows, 2 re-directions, and finally landing on a request for creating a "free" account with password, blah, blah, blah, I got SO frustrated, I bailed. The information may have been reallly great, and there may not have been any dollar cost, but my time is NOT free! And I'm guessing neither is yours! I am passionate about offering truly free songs, information, and materials with absolutely no strings attached,and that incldues no ads to click past or invitations for sign-up or anything else. Because I know how I feel when I've been sucked into a time warp where I attempt to do something quick and easy, only to look up at the clock and see I have lost a precious hour of my life! If you have ever used my current artist website (, you know I truly do offer free songs and printable materials with no strings attached. 

SIngWIthOurKids will be bigger, better organized, more compreshensive, and yes- REALLY free.Free of monetary cost, and free of wasted time. I have been doing this for eleven years, so I already have a track record. And you have me personally to be held accountable! I can testify that I have more than once, gone to download one of my own songs for a concert or workshop literally on my way out the door, and been able to do it. We need to re-define free. Free from monetary cost, and your time- so you can get on with the important work of singing with our kids!

How can I afford do this? 

As you already know if you've been following the project previews, I'll do as much of the project as I can for free. This includes events, classes, and workshops, and appearances for the  live project, and recording, videotatping and writing website content. Building the website is the one thing I can't do myself. So I will have an Indiegogo Internet fundraiser from September 1st-30th, to raise funds to build the website. I expect to fund it fully, but if the fundraiser falls short, I'll fund it personally.. So either way, using the website will be free, and the Indiegogo fundraiser will not impact that. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Countdown 13 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: The Bingo factor!

I was singing Bingo at a concert today, and was amazed as I always am, that it seems to almost have magical power!  It's one of a small handful of songs that everyone always sings, that has somehow survived the test of time, and that seems to be irrististable. It's almost as if it's in our dna! What is it about this song that has given it true lasting power, and how many other songs are there like this; songs that can draw in children of all ages, and adults just walking by? Let's explore the Bingo factor together over the next nine months, and see how many other songs we can come up with. A singable song needs to be easy, repetitive, and have a good rhythm, and of course, be familiar. These are the "camp" songs of our culture. If you were making a list, what songs would you put on it? Let me know!

Countdown 14 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: From Birth to Five... and Before and After!

I was speaking with a children's librarian after a concert at a Seattle Public Library, and she was telling me about a program she designed to help children ages 5-8 who are still learning how to read, comprehend, and think!.As she pointed out, we have early literacy... then teach children to read... then no real support outside of school for those emergent readers. And on the other end of it, of course, early learning begins before birth. We know reading,singing, and talking to babies before they are born is so important, and the true beginning of early learning. 

I chose to focus my projects on birth to five, but as I hear about other people's work on either side of that, I see there will need to be a place for it in Sing With Our Kids. So I'll include sort of bulletin board where we can share programs, books, websites, and ideas about prenatal learning, and emergent literacy; the bookends to the project!  It just keeps getting more interesting! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Countdown 15 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Seeking the Key to Being Comfortable Singing

Helping people become comfortable singing is at the heart of this project. And one of the things that I know  helps, is if people have the words to a song in their hands or in front of them. This does two things. First of all, of course, there is the obvious and practical point. If everyone has the words, everyone can join in. And if everyone joins in, those with weaker voices are carried by the group. In our culture, church, camp experiences and life events (weddings, funerals) still provide this group-sing model. Singing in the safety of a group is what teaches us to sing. But we have fewer and fewer of these opportunities as each of us goes off to do "our own thing."  And there's another thing I've noticed from my work with children. There are always a few of what I call "reluctant singers," and if you work with young children, you know what I mean; the children who just never sing. I discovered by accident many years ago, that if you give that child something to hold, he or she is much more likely to sing. Maybe it's as simple as providing some sort of security, or maybe it acts as a distraction from self-consciousnesses. In my music workshops I use the example of a traditional song called, Who Has a Penny? (you can download the song with lyrics and activity notes at ). Each child is given a "treasure" to hold. The songs begins with the leader singing, "Who has a penny?" Children with pennies answer, "I have a penny." It's really stunning how every child will sing. It's magical! I have found this to be true with other songs where children are holding something special during the song. So during the Sing With Our Kids Project live events, I plan to have lyrics to songs as part of an experiment to see if this makes a difference. This is an example of why having a live project in addition to the website will be what makes the project unique and really useful. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Countdown 16 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: What is it about songs?

Songs are amazing things! They are a direct line to our emotions, and when we sing a song together,  we are joined in a moment in time. Songs contain words we don't use every day, making them perfect and irresistible vehicles for building vocabulary, one of the six skills needed to become successful readers. Think of a children's song you know... like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.... If you sing just the first verse with a baby, you are using 5 words that might not otherwise be part of your daily language; twinkle, wonder, world, above, diamond, And if you sing the full traditional version, you are adding at least nine words to your child's vocabulary (you can download the full version at my website by clicking the link here:  ). The words are beautiful and able to enchant the tiniest baby. will not only have an extensive collection of these traditional songs, but you'll be able to download the mp3s,
and lyrics with guitar chords- so you can sing them together. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Countdown 17 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Reminders of What We Already Know will have lots of new information and songs, but it will also have lots of old information and songs we sometimes forget. When I put out the call for traditonal songs to include in the song library, I was surprised how many times songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and the The Wheels on the Bus were requested. I wouldn't have thought to inlcude them. But the feedback I've gotten is a reminder not to take anything for granted! There's a lot of life lived between the time you're a toddler and when you a parent. And I've often had parents ask me, "Where do I begin?"  It's not that we have forgotten these songs, but that we have forgotten we know them! So will definitely include the staple songs that should never be taken for granted. And of course those same songs are a wonderful introduction to our culture for children and families from other lands. So go ahead little star, Twinkle!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Countdown 18 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Sing it, Sign it, Use it!

Did you know children know what they want to say before they have the physical ability to form the words? Fortunately, they are able to form simple signs with their hands, so having just a few ASL signs can make the difference between frustration and joy! I can't tell you how many times during my concerts I have seen a babe in arms look up at mom and make the sign for "milk." The mom then begins to breasfeed, and peace and contentment abound! The SingWithOurKids website will have not only simple signing songs with videos, but information and resouces on why signing works and how to make the most of it. Wish I knew about this when my kids were little!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Countdown 19 days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Making Sense of the Alphabet

Okay, raise your hand if you learned the ABC Song whe you were little. Now keep your hand up if you learned it before you even knew your letters (trust me, you  most likely did, so keep your hand up). Now put your hand down if you've ever forgotten the ABC Song! Your hand's still up, isn't it? And that, in a nutshell, is the magic of music and literacy. It makes sounds and words into patterns so our brains can remember them. will have lots of fun information on how and why music helps us learn-  no matter how old we are!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Countdown 20 Days!

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Songs Are Portable Literacy!

We all know that reading to babies and young children daily is vital to building all kinds of skills, including language and early literacy. But reading is limited to times when you and your child can give it your full attention. For many families with busy lives,  that may mean only at bedtime, or at the most two or three quiet times a day. That's where singing comes in! You can take songs anywhere, and sing them in the car, the bathtub, and of course, in the car! They are free, always with you, and interactive! What a deal! And singing builds many of the same skills reading to your child does! The SingWIthOurKids website will provide you with lots of ideas and fun ways to get you singing throughout the day, while providing you with the information on just how it's helping your child's development (not to mention building relationships). Songs are truly portable literacy!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Countdown 21 Days

Today's Preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Technology Meets Grandparents!

Here's an idea I'm especially excited about! When we have the monthly Grandparent Gatherings (see "countdown 24 days" post), I will bring my I-pad. Grandparents can quickly record a short song and personal message for their grandchildren, and I can e-mail it off to the parents- wherever they are! If they want to read a short book, then buy it and send it along to go with the song, they can do that too! And the beauty of this is that will cost nothing and will require no technology know-how (not that grandparents don't know technology, because more and more they absolutely do). But if they don't have access to the technology of recording, etc,  I can do it for them right there on the spot! How cool is that? It's all about connections! And for grandparents who can't attend the gatherings, there will be an instructional video on how to do this themselves. Every live part of the project will have corresponding information on the website so you can take advantage of all the same materials. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Countdown 22 Days!

Today’s preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Clarification

As I've said before, putting together this project has meant making it up as I go along. And today I had an imortant (to me, anyway!) revelation. I have a great website already, Nancymusic. com, and it has tons of free materials, including over 150 free songs. So how will be different? Here was the "aha" moment I had today. is about promoting and presenting me as an artist, with yes, oh by the way tons of free materials. But will be about me promoting the project, not myself. I will have a presence so it will be personal, and you will be able to contact a real person if you need any help with materials or have ideas to add. But the site  will be all about bringing together a wide range of resources. The resources people need will drive the creation and development of And that's an important distinction. Clarification is good!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Countdown 23 Days!

Today’s preview of the Sing With Our Kids website: Flash Mobs (sort of!)

Today I'll give you a preview of the LIVE project part of Sing With Our Kids. There will be nine months of free events taking place all over the community of Mercer Island.  These will be events any community could do, so you can follow along and do the same things in your own community! All ideas and planning details will be the for you to use! Tweet Events (think of them as sort of like flash mobs) will be just one of the groups of events going on. They will be designed to bring attention to early learning in unique ways that are fun, quick, and highly visible! Here are just a few examples of Tweet Events (there are bound to be more as our imaginations get going):

1. Supermarket Snake- families will be invited to meet at each of our 3 community supermarkets and hold hands to form a snake that will go through every isle while singing a marketing song! We'll stop along the way to identify letters (supermarkets are a great place for letter hunts!).

2. Book Store Boogie- similar to market, but of course, we'll be making our way through the book store- also a great place for letter hunting!

3. All-Island  Ring Around the Rosy
 Once a month a meeting place and time will be announced, and we'll form a circle and sing. The group will increase in size every month, and by the end of the project in May,  we can try for the Guinness Book of World Records (currently around 900)! These will be done in highly visible public parks.

4. Neighborhood Sing-alongs.  These will be coordinated to happen at the same time all over the community. Sing along-lyric sheets with guitar chords for traditional songs will be available to print out from the website. We'll select 10 "endangered" folk songs and sing to revive them!

During each of the Tweet Events, we'll have parents pull out their phones, take a picture,  and tweet it out the the world! The  goal will be to increase awareness of early learning through community singing by holding these unique events. Sounds like a lot of wild and crazy fun, doesn't it? Of course, let me know if you have any ideas!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Countdown 24 Days!

Today’s Preview of the Sing With Our Kids Website: Grandparents!

Today’s website preview is personal. I am the proud grandmother of two toddlers, and very lucky to be able to help care for them regularly. At the same time I’ve noticed a major demographic shift in my concert audiences. Grandparents have become a major portion of adults attending with the children, sometimes by more than half.. I think this due in part to economic times, but it’s also reflects new lifestyle choices. We are rediscovering the importance of family helping family, and we are all the winners for it. And here’s the thing… Grandparents are an incredible untapped  resource. No group is more motivated, has more life experience and wisdom, and often time than this group. And grandparents who don’t live near their grandchildren are always looking for ways to connect and build relationships with  them. That’s where Sing With Our Kids comes in. Singing is the ultimate connector, and grandparents know songs! They know lots and lots of songs! And they know it’s fun and important to sing with their grandchildren. So the Sing With Our Kids website will have a “Grandparents Corner,” and the live project will have monthly Grandparent Gatherings at the Mercer Island Library. At the gatherings grandparents will:

·      Remember their favorite songs and learn fun and creative ways to share them with grandchildren while passing down family history and traditions.
·      Learn about  brain development and how singing together is one of the best ways to connect, and to enhance early learning and especially early literacy
·      Learn how to use technology to get and stay connected in a very personal way, and much much more.
The stories, experiences, and discussions from the gatherings will be documented and posted on the website, so grandparents everywhere will be able to use the songs and materials, and even become part of the discussion. If you are a grandparent, or know grandparents, please share this project with them!