Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Pitch for 'Family Music' High-Quality Recordings for Kids Add Harmony to Home Life, Boost Learning Skills, Says Author

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Pitch for 'Family Music' High-Quality Recordings for Kids Add Harmony to Home Life, Boost Learning Skills, Says Author

Article excerpt

CHILDREN'S music advocate Jill Jarnow has one hope for the '90s: that parents and children who read together - sing together.

"I would love to see families use recorded music with the same comfort and frequency that they use books for reading," she says.

Whether during meal preparation or a car ride, before naptime or bedtime, listening to tapes of children's music can boost a family's well-being, says Mrs. Jarnow, who has spent the last five years studying recordings for kids.

"Family music" is Jarnow's replacement term for "kids' music," a somewhat derogatory label connoting sugar-sweet, mindless melodies sure to drive parents batty. But thanks to an avalanche of children's music available today, high-caliber recordings are plentiful, she says, wooing adults as well as kids into snapping their fingers and singing along.

"If (music listening) could become part of a family's repertoire, they would find their children more able to cope with school," says Jarnow, author of "All Ears: How to Choose and Use Recorded Music for Children" (Penguin Books, New York, $9.95).

"A lot of teachers are having trouble because kids can't sit still and they can't concentrate." Family listening helps develop those skills, she says in an interview. Besides educational benefits, the music "is just plain fun!"

In "All Ears," Jarnow lists more than 200 children's recordings by artist, content, and age appropriateness. Blue-grass, traditional folk music, rock, rap, Afro-pop, and even classical music are among the styles on the market. "There's something for everyone," she says.

"The days of plunking on a busted banjo have long gone," says Diana Huss Green, editor-in-chief of Parents' Choice, a children's media review magazine. "There is a remarkable amount (of children's music) out there that's authentic - not generic or canned." Since parents are often bewildered by the choices, Jarnow's book "is a very valuable piece of work," Ms. Green says.

Jarnow values children's music because of the high "nutritional" content of the lyrics. The words typically address self- esteem, valuing the individual and diversity, and the fears, hopes, and problems in children's lives - like getting along with siblings or not liking vegetables.

Such lyrics can prompt meaningful dialogue between parent and child, Jarnow says. Learning to think carefully about a song's message will help children in later years when all they want to hear are Top 40 hits on the radio, pop songs whose lyrics promote over-blown romantic sentiments and the all-importance of "how you look and what you own."

Driving in the car is a terrific time to listen to music, Jarnow says. When kids are strapped in seat belts and restless, hearing favorite tunes makes the time zip by. "One woman told me she had been stuck in a rain storm with her husband and their three-year old for four hours," says Jarnow. …

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