Starting Music Reading with Children
When my young students start learning to read music it usually becomes their favourite part of the lesson. Initially they learn rhythm reading using animal names like "dog" and "birdie" from the wonderful book "The Rhythm Train" by Dana DeKalb. The children LOVE using this book so much that we use it as a fun break activity during lessons. Each rhythmic unit has a character name and a cute picture. For example, a quarter note is "dog" and 4 sixteenth notes are "al-li-ga-tor". The children read rhythms in chunks instead of as individual notes, which makes reading faster and easier.
I have used The Rhythm Train with children from age 3-12 years but I think it is best used around age 5-9 years. Although the book is aimed at young children, I have also used it successfully with some young teens. Often, years after a child completes the book we still use the character names to refer to the various rhythmic units. Instead of talking about “that group of notes with the eighth note followed by the two sixteenth notes”, we can talk about the "grass-hop-per".
I sell the Rhythm Train books as digital downloads so they are easy to access from anywhere in the world.
The book doesn't really have any instructions with it so I have made video-lessons to lead you through it. These Rhythm Train lessons are the first thing I teach in my “Introduction to Music Reading for Children” course. I like the children to complete this course during Suzuki book 1, so that they are ready for “proper” music reading in Suzuki book 2.
You can read the main course page for Introduction to Music Reading for Piano and Introduction to Music Reading for Violin without a subscription. To view the video-lessons, register for any subscription: 1-week-free violin, 1-week-free piano, violin subscription or piano subscription.
Have a look, I think you’ll enjoy these lessons 😊