Book Review: Xavier Sings Stories of His Alphabet Friends January 12 2021
Technology has opened vistas galore on the science of brain development. One remarkable discovery for Waldorf teachers and parents is how potent music is in developing memory. All of us are much more likely to remember something if we learn it in song.
This isn't surprising in one significant way: music often makes us feel, sometimes very deeply. It cultivates a mood, and we are more likely to recall the mood than the content. If something is very funny or very sad or very moving or very shocking, we are much more likely to remember than if there is no mood at all. Once the mood is evoked, the content then follows.
Mary Lynn Channer has been teaching for forty years in the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor. The teachers and parents in that community have relied on Mary Lynn to assist children who have difficulty catching on to reading. Besides being a very able lyre player and singer, she also has a unique way with the young. Her years of work are captured in her new book, Xavier Sings Stories of His Alphabet Friends. It is a book to reach children. To do this, we need to speak in stories and story pictures, providing them with a language they can understand. The images build a bridge for them from their childlike thinking to practical things that are "givens" to us grown-ups but are hard to comprehend in children's hearts. Think of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood to better understand this — how he explained things slowly and clearly.
Mary Lynn reaches children as masterfully as Fred Rogers in her book of stories and songs. She teaches how to invent stories — some of them silly, some of them small, but all of them memorable for children. Every letter of the alphabet has a song. Children sing the songs and play them on the lyre or a flute, and it stays in their memory, laced in mood and pictures in ways that prompt their understanding and recollection.
May Lynn Channer's book is a tribute to childhood in itself. The songs teach us as the teachers of children to slow down, allow the child "in" to the pictures we make for them to take the images in and remember. It's a task that the fast-moving modern world often skips over, leaving children a little lost even as they yearn to understand. Channer's success as a remedial teacher for children struggling to learn to read shines out from this book and offers light-hearted solutions to challenges on the road to reading.
Xavier Sings Stories of His Alphabet Friends is a book for every child, every parent, every teacher. It teaches us to reach children as children reach to understand and remember reading.