I don’t have what you’d call a good singing voice. I don’t mind flexing the tin pipes in front of kids at all, but not all story time singing is created equal.
As I see it, there are three different kinds of songs you will encounter in children’s books. Here they are, ranked by the level of fear they induce.
The Straight-Up Song. Fear Level: Low
This is when a well-known song appears in a book with few or no changes. You know exactly what to do. You know the tune and so do the kids. Most of the words are the same. It’s sing-along time.
Example: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Jerry Pinkney
The Song with New Lyrics. Fear Level: Medium
This is when a well-known song is given new lyrics. You know the tune and so do the kids, but it’s slightly more difficult to sing along because the words are different. Time to take more of the center stage.
Example: Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora
The No Context Song. Fear Level: High
This is when a song appears with no guidelines on how to sing it. We’ve all seen it. In this case, it’s rare that the song makes up the entirety of the book. The story will say something like, “and she even made up a song”, followed by a few rhyming lines. Time to get creative.
Example: The Bunny’s Night Light by Geoffrey Hayes
In these situations I envision the author walking past the door.
“What’s that awful sound?” I imagine the author saying before walking into the room to realize it’s his masterpiece being slaughtered.
“I don’t have what you’d call a good singing voice”, I reply.