Enhancing Music Appreciation by Kathie Johnson

First Books

Enhancing Music Appreciation

by Kathie Johnson

One of the blessings of living where I do is that we have a fine classical radio station, KDFC (you can stream it anywhere). In addition to great programming and wonderful informative tidbits, it has no ads, so it's almost always playing at our house.

There are periods during the day when people can make requests. I am particularly pleased when, as often happens, a parent asks to have a special piece of music played for a child. It is typical in these cases that the child plays an instrument and/or that the child and parent are listening together in the car or at home.

Most young people these days are surrounded by popular music of all sorts—in stores, on their electronic devices, often even at church. It is easy for them to understand the "language" of such music. These children sometimes struggle to understand and appreciate classical music.

Although I grew up listening to classical music and reading the notes at concerts, I didn't really learn as much as I wish I had. After 70 years of listening, I am still surprised by how much I do not know.

There are many books that can be used to help children enjoy and understand music, and even those children brought up on classical music can benefit from them. Here are a few to get you started.

General Books

First to consider are the general books on music. I like Aliki's Ah, Music! It is not long—about fifty pages, but it contains a wealth of information and is full of buoyant pictures. It tells what music is, what its benefits are, and what are some of its many varieties. It also gives a description of the major musical instruments and a brief overview of music history.

You might also like Genevieve Helsby's My First Classical Music Book, which includes a CD. It begins by talking about how music is used in settings that most children are familiar with—in movies, to dance to, at weddings, and so forth. Then comes a series of short biographies of the major composers, followed by a description of the families of instruments. Illustrated with animal characters, it is winsome.

Another book, M Is for Melody by Kathy-jo Wargin, is a volume in an alphabet series. Each page covers a topic beginning with a letter of the alphabet—for example, "B is for brass," "C is for conductor," "H is for harmony," "Q is for quartet," and so on—first giving a brief explanation of the subject in a rhyming verse and following that up with a longer prose explanation for the more interested reader.

Books About Composers


Kathie Johnson has always had a love for children's books. She collected many as a teacher and began sharing them with other teachers. In 1986, she opened a children's library in her home, and it has continued to expand over the years. Many home-schooled and schooled children borrow books from it, and she takes great pleasure in finding the "right" book for a child. She attends First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.

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