Singing and Literacy: An Initial Investigation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Martha A. Gabriel, June Countryman


Music making music, singing music, listening to music- is a human activity deeply rooted in who we are as people. Blacking (1973) proposed that Musicmaking is an inherited biological predisposition which is unique to the human species (p.7). One important focus of music exploration has become using ethnomusicological insight and approaches in order to understand the character of a music culture- its subcultures, such as childrens music and community music (Dzansi, 2002, 2). There have been a number of studies of musical play of children in a variety of geographical locations, such as Ghana (Dzansi, 2002), Australia (Marsh, 1995), the United States (Campbell, 1991; 1998), Great Britain (Opie, 1985), and Jamaica (Hopkin, 1984). Even so, Campbell (1998) has suggested that Childrens engagement in music frequently is paid minimal attention by teachers and parents, even when it may be the rich repository of childrens intimate thoughts and sentiments (p. 5). In this study, one of the researchers collected musicking (Small, 1987) from children and teachers at an elementary school in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The musical pieces that were recorded included chants, singing games, and hand-clapping songs. In analyzing these pieces, we have investigated the connections between the songs, singing as communication, and childrens literacies. Strong connections may be made between what children sing, and their comfort level in learning to read and communicate. We have found that singing as a literacy is frequently underestimated. The singing of children provides a richer experience of literacies for the schoolchildren of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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