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


  • Martha A. Gabriel University of Prince Edward Island
  • June Countryman University of Prince Edward Island


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 children’s 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 “Children’s engagement in music frequently is paid minimal attention by teachers and parents, even when it may be the rich repository of children’s 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 children’s 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.

Author Biographies

Martha A. Gabriel, University of Prince Edward Island

Martha Gabriel teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Prince Edward Island. She teaches courses in literacy, digital technologies and qualitative research methods. Martha integrates music into her teaching in the pre-service teachers’ literacy classroom, and encourages young teachers to bring music into their own teaching and learning. Her current research interests include exploring the connections between early literacies and children’s musicking, as well as examining connections between young people’s use of digital technologies both inside and outside of school environments.

June Countryman, University of Prince Edward Island

Dr. Countryman teaches courses in music education in UPEI's Department of Music. June had a lengthy career in public education as a K-8 music specialist, a curriculum consultant and a high school choral teacher, and a Department Head. She completed her Ed. D at OISE/UT in 2008.