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Sing Along Sing Alone: Echo Songs (Interactive Singing Experiences for Children and Their Adults) Review by Melissa Cummings

Arts Education IDEAs

In general, children love to make noise. And eventually they grow to love words. Many children, too, love singing; but not all children are comfortable singing. There are some children who need to be taught to sing anything, and there are other children who need to be taught to hone their natural tendencies to sing. This program covers all of those bases, adapts to many levels of ability as well as preference, works with groups or in a one-on-one situation, and is simple to follow. Another thing children tend to love is to copycat, and that is where these Echo Songs come in particularly handy. The format of these specific pieces of music incorporates much echoing, which aids in the teaching as well as the learning of these musical selections.

There is an audio CD including all of the songs in three different versions: full vocal and instrumental performance, just parts of the vocal performance along with the instrumental background, and then simply instrumental accompaniment. These three levels of music on the CD are to aid in the growth of a child's musical development and confidence -- a very clever idea indeed. The recorded music is very tasteful and well done. It would even be fun music to have on a long car ride once a child has grown familiar with the pieces and can sing along without as much parental/teacher interaction. There is also a data CD with PDF files of all the song and activity pages, although the songbook may be copied just as easily as PDF files may be printed.

There are 11 songs in the book, with fun illustrations, musical notation, variations, and suggested activities. My personal favorite part of the book is the last page dedicated to each song, where there is a history of the song, games to play with the child(ren), and ideas for making the music interactive. Encouraging children to be artistic with music, whether coloring illustrations that bring the music to life or dancing and using their bodies to illustrate the lyrics physically, is a real strength of the Sing Along Sing Alone songbook.

The book is simply and well bound, and the print is dark and clear, perfect for photocopying. The different activities and guidelines are well thought out as well as obviously designated. The program is easy to follow and simple to implement. Using the music CD adds a lot of freedom for the teacher as well as more diversity and fun for the student, but it is also fun to use a live instrument (we used piano) to change it up a bit and show the child(ren) another aspect of the musical experience. Some of the musical notation and rhythms are a little tricky, so if you don't have a musical background, carefully incorporate the CDs into the use of those more difficult songs.

The lyrics in the songs are largely childish, a balanced combination of silly and sweet. Some of them are more familiar (such as Where is Thumbkin?) than others (such as Che Che Kule from Ghana). There is one song that I would not want to do with children, which is By the Light of the Silvery Moon, as I don't find the lyrics to be particularly appropriate for young children. That song had its origin in Vaudeville variety shows, and because the lyrics make that origin rather obvious, I found it the single song worth skipping over.

I enjoyed the principles and philosophy behind Sing Along Sing Alone and appreciated its accessibility to all ages and capabilities (of both teachers and students). I do think the $20 investment for this product would be worthwhile for a homeschool or other classroom situation.

Product review by Melissa Cummings, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2011