Category Archives: Music

App Review: Keezy

IMG_4447I recently used an app called Keezy in a storytime I was presenting all about music. The app was originally designed for professional (and aspiring) musicians to use as a sound mixing board, but it has a super-simple interface that makes it into a very flexible tool easy enough for kids to use and full of possibilities for different ways to use it.

The main screen of the app consists of 8 colored squares. When you first open the app, you can touch each square to hear a pre-recorded default recording. Some of the sounds are rhythms, some are synthesized voices singing, others are short musical riffs. You can play them one at a time, or layer them in any way you want, pressing as many as all 8 at once.

You can also choose one of the other pre-recorded musical mixes to hear a different selection of sounds.


But the real beauty of this app comes when you choose the “+” symbol from the options menu.


This option will take you back to the main screen, only this time, there is a small microphone symbol on each square.  Press on a square to record your own sound clip and once it’s recorded, the microphone disappears to let you know that that color now has a recording associated with it.


Of course, you can record musical clips (I had my storytime group echo back a few bars I sang to them and then we listened to ourselves on the playback), and one of my favorite features is the fact that there are 8 squares, allowing a full octave of individual notes if that’s what you want, but…. you’re not limited to music. You can record any audio as long as it’s not longer than a few seconds! Some ideas I’ve thought of include:

  1. Recording animal noises (or your own voice making animal noises) for a guessing game.
  2. You could incorporate this app into a re-telling of one of those cumulative tales like “Too Much Noise” and record your audience making each of the animal noises before you begin telling the story and just press the button each time when it’s time to hear that noise in the story.
  3. Same thing for the song, “Bought me a Cat” (of course, the audience can still sing along if they want to!).
  4. You could do a MadLib story with a group and assign a part-of-speech to each color square (as long as your MadLib has no more than 8 blanks) and ask kids to come up and record a word for each square, then as you’re retelling the story, just press the square to playback the word at the right time.
  5.  You could have kids write an 8-sentence story and record a sentence for each color, but in a scrambled order and challenge a friend to figure out which order the colors should be played in to make the story make the most sense.This is a great, easy-to-use, open-ended content creation app with so many possibilities to explore.  Oh, and did I mention? It’s FREE! What will you make with Keezy?

Carissa Christner is a librarian with Madison Public Library.

Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Music Together and the Children’s Librarian: Part 2, by Barratt Miller

Kids select instruments for the playalong during a library storytime.

Kids select instruments for the playalong during a library storytime.

When I applied for professional development funding to attend a Music Together Teacher Training, I identified three things I expected to learn: classroom management and lesson planning skills, new songs and activities for my baby/toddler storytime, and how Music Together’s curriculum supported early literacy. In Part 1 of this post series, I reflected on my first goal for the training and how it turned out. Today I’ll tackle the other two.

2. I wanted to learn some new songs and activities, especially for my baby/toddler storytime.

What I Hoped to Learn:

I was really struggling to come up with appropriate activities for my baby/toddler storytime for kids age 0-3. I’d figured out what kinds of books worked with this age group (and that two was about their limit), but I’d been struggling with incorporating other activities into the storytime. Also, I repeated some of my activities, like “The Freeze” by Greg & Steve, every week. I needed some new ideas to freshen up my storytime!

What I Actually Learned:

So many songs! We learned songs from the Family Favorites CD, including different ways to teach the songs using movement, harmony, and rhythm. We spent one afternoon learning the songs and another afternoon studying different ways to teach them. My favorites are “Riding in the Car” and “One Little Owl.” (Music Together does place some limitations on using their music outside of a registered center, but we got the green light to use Family Favorites as long as we weren’t charging a fee or calling our classes Music Together classes.)

What I Took Back to My Library:

I haven’t been doing many storytimes this summer because of Summer Reading Program scheduling, but I’ve definitely incorporated some of my favorite activities into the storytimes I have been doing. Instead of handing out scarves for scarf activities, I toss the scarves into the air. The kids love reaching up to catch them as they float down. I’ve been trying to add a “playalong,” where I bring out musical instruments and let the kids (and parents) rock out while we listen to some music. It’s loud, but the kids love trying all the different instruments. I’ve also started singing the words “good bye” when all of the scarves/instruments go back in the box to make it easier for the kids to let go, and added a lullaby/snuggle time after our playalong to bring the energy level back down. I’ve tried using the “Hello Song” and the “Goodbye Song,” but my storytime parents are very shy singers and it hasn’t taken off yet.

3. I wanted to find out more about how Music Together’s curriculum supports early literacy and other forms of early learning.

What I Hoped to Learn:

I live in a rural community with lots of at-risk kids. The local preschools only have capacity for 14% of the children in the county, and one local kindergarten teacher reports that about two thirds of her students are woefully underprepared when they start school. Kindergarten readiness (especially early literacy!) is our main goal as a community right now, and I wanted more ideas about how to incorporate early learning techniques into my storytimes and in some local planning initiatives.

What I Actually Learned:

Like Every Child Ready to Read, Music Together emphasizes the importance of parent involvement in children’s learning. The Music Together techniques of encouraging parent participation during storytimes, providing take-home activities for families to do together, and sharing information about key early learning milestones with parents are all things children’s librarians can do to promote parent engagement and early learning. Plus, the similarity between the two programs helped me understand Every Child Ready to Read more thoroughly and gave me some great ideas about how to incorporate parent education into my storytimes.

What I Took Back to My Library:

While working on one of my Music Together homework assignments, I realized that the Music Together curriculum would be a great way to encourage parents with low literacy skills to become active participants in their child’s early learning process. One of my coworkers had shared a story about a young mother she met at an outreach event who became very defensive when asked if she read to her son. She didn’t read–ever–and she refused to even consider opening a picture book. For parents who aren’t confident readers, coming to a storytime or engaging in early literacy activities might be intimidating. A music program, however, might be more appealing and would provide many of the same early learning benefits as a storytime. It would be great to apply for a grant to fund the site license fee and the purchase of materials so that the library could offer the program to at-risk families for free. My library is not able to offer that kind of program right now, but it’s something we might consider pursuing in a few years.


Obviously, I found the training useful for all the reasons I’d anticipated. I wanted to end these posts, however, by talking about something that I didn’t expect from the training. I got to spend three very long days with other early childhood educators, music therapists, and music educators from all over Oregon. We were all there because we were passionate about children, learning, and music. During breaks and over lunch, we all talked about how the training was helping us think about our work in new and different ways. We shared ideas and anecdotes about our experiences. It was great to really connect with people from different regions and different types of early childhood programs, and their shared insights were valuable in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

I hope this information helped give you all a better picture of how a Music Together Teacher Training might benefit you as a children’s librarian! If you have any questions, please feel free to send me an e-mail at bmiller(at)crooklib(dot)org.

Barratt Miller is the Youth & Adult Services Librarian at the Crook County Library in Prineville, Oregon. She received her MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. As a graduate reference assistant at the University of Illinois Library, she selected materials for the School Collection, the second largest collection of children’s literature in North America. She also reviews middle grade and young adult science fiction and fantasy novels for The Horn Book Guide.

Music Together and the Children’s Librarian: Part 1, by Barratt Miller

Last spring, I e-mailed Cen in response to a PUBYAC post in which she mentioned using Music Together techniques in her storytimes. I’d been researching Music Together after hearing about it from a fellow librarian, and I wanted an additional perspective on what a children’s librarian might gain by attending a Music Together Teacher Training. I’d received loads of information from Music Together representatives while researching, but none of it was library-specific. Luckily, Cen gave me some great feedback! I registered for a training in Portland and agreed to do a write-up for Little eLit to share a children’s librarian’s perspective on the Music Together Teacher Training.

Music Together Picture Post 1For those of you who haven’t heard of Music Together, it’s a research-based early childhood music education program that teaches children basic music competence (being able to sing an entire song on pitch and march to a steady beat) through a combination of classes (offered through a registered center, preschool, or music therapy program) and at-home family music activities. The program offers three-day Teacher Training workshops around the world. Teachers who pass the training are eligible to become registered Music Together teachers, although many people attend the training in order to improve their skills as music teachers or early childhood educators. You don’t have to be a trained singer or have a formal music background to teach Music Together, although those skills can help. All you need to be able to do is sing an entire song on pitch and keep a steady beat with your whole body.

I’d like to note that my summary is a very, very brief overview of the program and that I’m definitely not an expert! I recommend visiting the Music Together website for more information and contacting them if you have questions. Their staff is enthusiastic about the program and loves to talk about it with interested individuals. They’ll be happy to answer your questions, send you materials, and generally help you in every way they can. (If you decide that Music Together would be perfect for your library but would require grant funding, they’ll even help you find and apply for grants!)

When I applied for professional development funding to attend a Music Together Teacher Training, I identified three things I expected to learn: classroom management and lesson planning skills, new songs and activities for my baby/toddler storytime, and how Music Together’s curriculum supported early literacy. I thought it would be helpful to evaluate these three goals by discussing what I hoped to learn from the training, what I actually learned, and what I took back to my library. I’ll discuss the first goal today.

1. I wanted to improve my classroom management and lesson planning skills.

What I Hoped to Learn:

Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t have a background in education and didn’t receive formal storytime training in grad school. After six months of weekly storytimes for a variety of mixed age groups (babies and toddlers, preschoolers, all ages) and help from more experienced colleagues, I still didn’t feel completely confident planning storytimes or leading the group in activities. I wanted to learn how to plan and lead engaging storytimes and to learn some tricks for dealing with difficult behavior.

What I Actually Learned:

We got to observe two different teachers teach three full Music Together sessions, which meant we got to see them keep twelve 0-5 year olds and their parents engaged for a 45-minute session. We looked for different elements in each session, taking note of how the teacher structured the session and interacted with the parents and kids. Music Together also uses a standard lesson plan for each of its sessions. All of the attendees had a chance to create a lesson plan that was critiqued by the instructor. In order to pass the training, each attendee had to teach a song and movement activity that was critiqued by the instructor and the other attendees. It was terrifying but so helpful, especially because I’d never had an opportunity for that kind of feedback before.

What I Took Back to My Library:

I love the lesson plan structure! Before, I had been mixing books and activities but without any real meaning in the order. Now, I plan to start with small activities and build up to progressively bigger, more engaging activities with focus activities in between. I’ve only done a couple of storytimes since my training, but I already have a better sense of what works well with a mixed-age group. I’m able to define my expectations for kids and parents more clearly. Getting parents to participate is still a struggle most days, but I definitely have better tools for getting them involved now. Best of all, I feel more confident!

Stay tuned for my reflections on my other two goals for my Music Together Teacher Training in an upcoming post!

Barratt Miller is the Youth & Adult Services Librarian at the Crook County Library in Prineville, Oregon. She received her MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. As a graduate reference assistant at the University of Illinois Library, she selected materials for the School Collection, the second largest collection of children’s literature in North America. She also reviews middle grade and young adult science fiction and fantasy novels for The Horn Book Guide.

What Apps Do That I Can’t: Responses to Questions from #ala2013, by Angela Reynolds

At our Conversation Starter at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, an attendee posed the question, “What advantages do apps have over other traditional formats?” In response, I’d like to share one really good example from my own experience.

mzl.pgmshncs.480x480-75In my Milk & Cookies Storytime, I used the Rosemary Wells app “Bunny Fun: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Now, I know the song perfectly well in English, and so do the kids at storytime and all their parents. But I DO NOT know it in French (though some of our patrons did), nor do I know it in Spanish or Japanese (one little girl did know the Japanese! ). But in this storytime, because I had the app projected onto the screen, we learned the words for “head,” “shoulders,” “knees,” “toes,” “eyes,” “ears,” “mouth,” and “nose” in 3 other languages, and tried to sing the song in those languages, too. The kids loved it. The parents loved it. And it only took about 5 minutes total of storytime. Not only was it a language and cultural experience, it was physically active. We were singing and dancing the whole time, and all because of an app. Not the passive, sit and stare at a screen experience AT ALL.

These are the kind of app experiences I am looking for—the ones that add a richness to storytime and model for parents that there are fun learning opportunities on those little devices they are all so fond of. During storytime, I quickly tell the parents the name of the app and where they can find it on the iPads that they can use after storytime, so that they can explore it even more and decide if they want to download it for their own collection. Modeling, sharing fun educational experiences, and helping parents find and use early literacy apps for use at home are some of the great ways we can enrich the lives of the families that willingly step through our doors!

Angela J. Reynolds
Youth Services Manager
Annapolis Valley Regional Library

More Digital Felt Board Songs

These are the felt board songs I did at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. I usually play the first verse on one of my woodwinds with the image showing, then sing the words, and on the third run through of each song I switch to the lyrics and invite everyone to sing with me. I try to establish a beat or swaying motion before every song. That way I can get people to learn the song through audiation (hearing the song in their head before they begin to sing), feeling it in their bodies, understanding the content of the song visually through the felt board image, hearing the words sung and seeing them written. Everyone sings along by the end, even if they don’t know the words, because this is such an information-rich way to introduce a new tune!

Check out our Digital Felt Board Collection for more ideas!

iStorytime Spotify

Yay! Another tool for the digital storyteller’s toolkit!  I’m making storytime playlists on Spotify through my free one month premium trial. I’m hoping to use this as another collaboration/reader’s advisory tool as a part of my Digital Storytelling Project.  I foresee children’s librarians in our community  libraries developing their own storytime playlists, sharing them with other librarians in the system, or posting what they’re listening to on their individual library’s Facebook pages.  There is an issue in that Spotify requires a personal Facebook account to sign in (not a page); as far as the interwebs tell me, there’s no longer a work-around for this. That’ll be next on my list to figure out.  Until then, I’m rocking it to Hot Potato on my own account.

Pete the Cat

No matter what you step in, keep walking along, singing your song.

Kathy Reid-Naiman Fingerplay App!

Whenever one of my Book Babies parents asks for a recommendation for a good children’s album, I recommend Kathy Reid-Naimon’s A Smooth Road to London Town. This album includes fingerplays, bounces, danceable tunes as well as lullabies, and they all feature Reid-Naiman’s beautiful voice and sophisticated accompaniment.  Now you can watch and listen to this expert storyteller on your iPad! Mulberry Media has designed an app for parents, librarians and educators who work with young children.

See a demo of the app here: 

I first heard about Reid-Naiman’s music through the Parent Child Mother Goose training program I did at the Vancouver Public Library with Jane Cobb, author of the two amazing storytime resource books (below).

Reid-Naiman, Cobb and other wonderful storytellers partnered to produce this early literacy program for parents and children, and it’s wonderful to see that in addition to the books and music, we can now benefit from their experience through an interactive app! (Review forthcoming!)

App Review: Twinkle Twinkle

Twinkle Twinkle
by Super Simple Learning
for iPhone and iPad
$2.99 from iTunes

Twinkle Twinkle is an app based on the song “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It includes animated videos of the song (sung by either an adult or a child), an interactive story, and a simple counting game. The story tells of a friendship between a little owl and a star.

This is a sweet song and story combo that’s ideal for young kids, and could be used as a bedtime story or song. The story takes the animation from the videos and adds very simple and subtle interactive elements, e.g. touch the owl and he blinks or flaps his wings; touch the star and it twinkles. The reader navigates through the story with right and left arrow buttons. There’s a home button in the upper left corner, but it can be hard to see on certain pages of the story. The counting game is also very simple – 20 stars appear on the screen and as the child touches each one, it spins, lights up and counts off. There is no way to change the number of stars that appear or change settings to make the game more challenging.

It’s a good introductory app for kids who might get overwhelmed by flashier interactive elements. The focus here is on the song and story so it’s more of a direct analog to a tree book than some other ebook apps, but can help children learn about interactive elements in a very easy and low-key way. I found after a few times through the story my son started ignoring the interactive elements and just clicked through to get to the song, which is his favorite part.

One other minor point of confusion: the animation in the videos and the story is the same, but the story is interactive and the videos are not. The first couple of times watching the video, my son kept touching the owl and the star expecting the same reactions as he saw in the story. Instead, touching the screen brought up the controls for the video player. It took a couple of turns through the app before he figured it out and stopped trying to interact with the videos.

If you want a free preview, check out the Youtube video:

eBook Review: Fire Truck

Fire Truck by Ivan Ulz has been a favourite in our house for quite some time.  It only occurred to me recently that it could be considered an eBook. Slippery things, these eBooks, aren’t they?  It was part of a series of  tree books  called “Sing and Read Storybooks” published by Scholastic.  This particular book is out of print, but there are others in the serious that are still available. (On a side note, the Scholastic website is TERRIBLE for searching.  And there is no link for this series of books.  They have got to get some librarians to work on that.)

The illustrations are great and contain all the requisite parts that make preschoolers go wild: ladders, hoses, spotted canines, wheels, bells and sirens.  There’s a reason this video has been watched nearly 3 million times- the little dudes dig it.

The song sounds monotonous on first listen, but once you’ve heard it a few times, it gets kinda groovy.  And you know what’s even groovier?  When you’re driving in your car, and a firetruck drives by, and your kid starts belting it out from the back seat.