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Read Across America in December

Set a harmonious tone in your classroom this month with books about music.

Music and stories about music are great ways to both build community and transport learners to different and far away places. Read and share stories about music’s unique power to bring people together and to promote change.

For Younger Readers

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016) is a story of trash to triumph and offers a message of message of music, hope, and perseverance.

Discuss and explore: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers offers a comprehensive curriculum guide for using the book in the classroom. Watch the Recycled Orchestra in action in this profile featured on 60 Minutes, or check out the documentary Landfill Harmonic.

For Older Readers

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books, 2015) is about Apple, a Filipino American eighth-grader, who believes she can change her life by learning how to play the guitar.

Discuss and explore:
Have students take a listen to the many Beatles songs in this playlist of music referenced in Blackbird Fly. Then share more about the famous band with read alouds of nonfiction titles like The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer or The Beatles by Mick Manning and Brita Granström.

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2015) is the true story of a city under siege and of Dmitri Shostakovich, who wrote a symphony to rally and commemorate his fellow citizens.

Discuss and explore:
Take advantage of the discussion questions and activities in Candlewick’s Teacher’s Guide and find additional resources, including interviews with the author, on the publisher’s website. Check with your school librarian or music teacher for recommended recordings of Shostakovich’s Symphony No.7 to share with your students.

Engaging Readers of All Ages

After you’ve got kids reading and thinking about the power of music, have them design and create original musical instruments out of items from the recycling bin. Start by investigating the science of sound and look at how different vibrating systems produce musical sounds. Let kids test available materials and sketch ideas for their instruments before they start building. After they build, strike up the band!

For inspiration, have students visit the Exploratorium, which offers online exhibits about the Science of Music, videos and a guide featuring experimental instrument builder Bart Hopkin, and ideas for building a membranophone. Or get your musical tribute to Dr. Seuss ready for March 2nd with some spectacular Seussical Musical Instruments.

Additional Resources

Teaching Tolerance’s resource The Sounds of Change includes activities to help students use music to communicate ideas.

Reading Rockets offers ways to integrate music into your literacy toolkit with Top 10 Music and Reading Resources.

Start with a Book’s Music and Musicians theme features suggestions for fiction and nonfiction titles, hands-on activities, and recommended apps and websites.

Mr. Vasicek's Classroom Music Playlist provides links for Music to Manage Your Classroom.

Watch and respond to poet Ashley Bryan as he recites "Way Down In The Music" by Eloise Greenfield:


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Download the Read Across America 2017 Recommended Books Poster here (PDF).

Click here to download the 2018-19 Read Across America Resource Calendar and Poster!



Reading Rockets offers a wealth of research-based resources designed to launch young readers. It's for parents, teachers, and other educators in helping struggling readers build fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.

Coming in 2019...

National Arts in Education Week
September 8-14, 2019

American Education Week
November 18-22, 2019

Coming in 2020...

NEA's Read Across America Day
Monday, March 2, 2020

National Teacher Day
May 5, 2020

National Teacher Appreciation Week
May 4 - 8, 2020