Get to reading—and dancing! March is Music in Our Schools Month!

Most Latina mamis don’t have to be convinced about the importance of music in our family’s lives, but did you know that researchers have found direct links between music education and academic achievement? Music students have been consistently found to perform better on standardized tests than their non-music-making counterparts in all areas, including math and reading. And of course, the arts as a whole help to develop creative thinking, a skill that is absolutely essential in today’s competitive world. So go ahead! Turn up the music! And know that as you do the tango, or cha-cha your way around your living room, you are also helping to develop a deep appreciation for music and music-making in your children, possibly helping them to become better students!

According to the National Education Association (NEA), now that public school music programs are facing budget cuts, it is more important than ever to support music in our schools as part of a well-rounded curriculum. To find out how you can help to support these important programs, visit the Music in Our Schools Month page of the National Association for Music Education. There, you will be able to share your own story about the impact music has had on your life, and on the life of your children.

And to help pave the way for your children’s success by instilling in them a love of music and reading, pick up these wonderful music-inspired books.

Celebrate Music in Our Schools Month with 5 Books Children Can Dance To!-Tito PuenteTito Puente: Mambo King/Rey del Mambo
By Monica Brown • Illustrated by Rafael López (HarperCollins)

A collaboration that began with My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/La vida de Celia Cruz, and helped to launch both Brown and López’s careers, once again produces a work that is as rhythmic and vibrant as the subject who inspired it. Children of all ages will surely be drawn to the sound of Tito’s timbales as they jump off the page through the author and illustrator’s clever use of onomatopoeia: “¡Tum Tica! ¡Tac Tic! ¡Tum Tic! ¡Tom Tom!

Lola’s Fandango
By Anna Witte • Illustrated by Micha Archer (Barefoot Books)

Lola’s Fandango is about finding one’s own calling, and what makes each of us special. Lola always fell short of her near-perfect sister Clementina—that is, until she discovered an old pair of flamenco shoes in her mami’s closet! A story that beautifully displays the power that music has to bring people together, and like Tito Puente: Mambo King/Rey del Mambo, is vibrant, rhythmic, and carries the power to engage even the most reluctant of readers. The book comes with an audio CD of the text.

Read Related: The Latino Children’s Literature Movement

Celebrate Music in Our Schools Month with 5 Books Children Can Dance To!

¡Olé! Flamenco
Written & Illustrated by George Ancona (Lee & Low)

Author and photographer George Ancona has published over one hundred books that offer in-depth explorations of particular subjects, as they visually depict real children’s lives in all of their diversity. In ¡Olé! Flamenco, Ancona offers detailed information about the dancing, singing and music that make up the Spanish art of Flamenco as he introduces readers to Janira Córdova, the youngest member of a flamenco company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Your child may want to take dance lessons after reading this book!

¡Pío Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes (Book and CD)
By Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy • Illustrated by Viví Escrivá (HarperCollins)

Just as it is never too early (or late) to introduce your children to reading, it is always the perfect time to introduce them to music, especially your music. This book offers a precious gift to parents of young children and parents-to-be: a collection of the nursery rhymes that many of us grew up with—whether we were born here, or “there”—in both English and their original Spanish. The book also comes with a music CD that includes the songs in both languages. Isn’t it wonderful that we are able to sing Hush Little Baby AND Arrorró mi niño to our children?

Celebrate Music in Our Schools Month with 5 Books Children Can Dance To!-Diez DeditosDiez deditos: 10 Little Fingers & Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America
By José Luis Orozco • Illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Dutton)

One of his two now classic bilingual compilations of traditional rhymes and songs from Latin America by the famed author/singer, this includes over thirty finger rhymes, play rhymes, and action songs and games for children of various ages that will have them singing and playing along. The book includes lyrics and music for each of the songs included. An audio CD by the same name is available for purchase separately.

Happy reading, ¡olé y azúcar!

Adriana Dominguez is the Book Reviews Editor for Mamiverse. You may follow her @vocesblog, or visit her website: AdrianaDominguez.com.