Rick Samuelson
Youth Services Librarian
Washington County Cooperative
Library Services (Oregon)
Proud parent of a toddler with another on the way!

contact:  ricks@wccls.org
website:  http://kids.wccls.org


What role does music play in your work?
I provide library storytimes for children of all ages. Each storytime is imbued with a healthy dose of music play! From short nursery rhymes to longer movement songs, I find that music is the great motivator for all children.

I blog regularly about nursery rhymes/songs and the early literacy connections that exist within musical play. From building strong vocabularies to helping kids recognize the smaller sounds in words, songs have a powerful effect on a child’s later reading success. Fingerplays and action songs help build fine and gross motor skills that kids need to become proficient writers, as well!"



What is the one thing you want people to know about singing with young children?

"As a children’s librarian, I spent many years telling families about the importance of reading with their children beginning at (or even before) birth. Imagine my surprise when my own bundle of joy arrived all beautiful and full of colic rage. He wanted nothing to do with books from day one. He would scream and swat and squirm and wiggle every time I tried to cuddle up with a book. I quickly changed my approach and begun to focus more on singing as a vehicle toward literacy-growth. Bouncing, rocking and singing became fun ways to calm down and for us to bond. Eight months down the road, colic licked, he became a bona fide book-fiend. His first book crush? Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? To this day, he prefers books that sound good over books with cool artwork. I credit his choosy taste to a regular diet of songs from early on.
My advice: Sing early & sing often! You will grow a lover of language and a future reader!"

1. The Big Rock Candy Mountain
About the Song: The imagery this song conjures up is absolutely fascinating to kids (adults, too). The idea of a land filled with nothing but candy and play is second-to-none! Best of all, kids can easily join in on the chorus all about buzzing bees and peppermint trees. The pop hooks in this song are priceless!

Personal Comment: Although there are many adult-versions of this song out there, it is super-easy to make slight modifications and turn it kid-friendly. As with other popular folk songs like Frog Went A-Courtin’, I would hazard a guess that no two people sing this song the same.

2. Billy Barlow
About the Song: Billy Barlow has a wonderfully repetitive pattern, it is super-easy for kids to catch on and join in. In addition, it does a good job modeling the process of asking and answering questions. Above all, there is a nice little story that sits at the back of everything.

Personal Comment: As we move further and further away from our agrarian roots, songs like this help keep our farming and hunting history alive. I always imagine a group of bumbling hunters, each trying to make a decision but completely befuddled and unable to act. Fortunately, they have the biggest bumbler around to help: Billy Barlow! The humor in this song comes through in the delivery. Each final line is delivered in a triumphant voice (and the audience thinks: “but of course!”).

3. Clickety Clack
About the Song:
The persistent chugga-chugga beat of a train can be both exciting and lulling. This song perfectly captures the beauty of locomotives and lends itself equally well to big body play or lullaby rocking. And you can’t go wrong with it because trains are massively interesting to little kids.

Personal Comment: This little known folk song deserves a far wider audience. In the time-honored folk tradition, I modify some of the lines in the rhyme to better suit my needs. I change the final line from “Get off the track, it isn’t where you belong” to “Good night little baby, in bed is where you belong… sshhhhh!” When rocking a baby, I repeat the verses over and over until I’ve got a really good rhythm going and will eventually end with the “sshhhhh!”    (You can watch Rick demonstrate the song HERE )

4.Had A Little Rooster
About the Song: I love how the animal sounds in this song build one on top of the other. The more animals you add, the longer the song gets. It is fun to challenge kids to see how many animals can be added before you forget the order. I always start the song with the rooster and then ask the kids to supply the additional animals.

Personal Comment: Old MacDonald Had a Farm is great, don’t get me wrong.. but, this is my absolute favorite animal sound song. It is super-fun to try to imagine the sounds that off-the-beaten-path animals might say: for example, “I had me a giraffe…” Hmmm… I always think of giraffes chewing on leaves, maybe we can make a “chomp, chomp, chomp” sound! There are multiple versions of this song floating around. Some singers use familiar onomatopoeic words for the animal sounds, others try to make more authentic animal calls. I stick with the former, because it gives kids better opportunities for hearing the sounds we use in language. When children play with making inventive sounds, they practice using and listening to the different smaller sounds that make up words. What a fun and meaningful way for kids to learn!

5. Wishy Washy Washer Woman
About the Song: Many songs that are popular with summer campers are absolutely perfect for the 5 and under crowd. This song is no exception. It has that singsong quality of many camp songs which is very simple and easy to master. The actions of the wishy washy washer woman are very enjoyable to act out, making it an instantly fun and interactive song for all kids, sight-unseen (or song-unheard). More than anything, I like how it tells the story of a familiar process.

Personal Comment:  begin by telling kids how folks used to wash clothes using a big tub of water and a scrubbing board: You had to push the piece of clothes you were washing down into the water then pull it up over the washboard. We generally practice the motions of washing and then jump right into the song. It is great for kids to discover how simple chores have evolved over time. If you'd like, you can see me singing it with the motions HERE.