5 Jazzy Books to Read to Your Toddler

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A father reads a jazz board book to his young toddler

5 Books to Read to Toddlers for Jazz Appreciation Month

It’s already April and you know what that means? Jazz Appreciation Month!

Okay, if you didn’t know that, don’t feel bad. It’s not one of those month celebrations that isn’t well known outside the music realm. Seriously, I didn’t know until a few years ago.

But the focus on jazz month gives us a great opportunity to broaden both your and your little one’s listening repertoire. There are some really great standards that I bet you already know, but perhaps they are so common, that you don’t really think of them as jazz anymore.

For example, Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” or even Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag”. Both of these are great starting points to enter the jazz realm – especially for your little ones. And for them, they are perfect because they are short.

So, today, I wanted to mention of few of my favourite jazz books for toddlers. Because we don’t always have to listen to music to appreciate it – we can also read about it!

If you want to check out more options, be sure to check out Bookroo’s list of jazz books. You’ll find books that are appropriate for different age groups, from newborns to tweens! Or, if you absolutely don’t want to read about jazz, then check out these 10 highly rhythmic books that you can read instead. 

If you see some books below that interest you or your little one, then I highly recommend checking them out first from your local library. See if your kids are interested and if they want you to read them often. It’s a much better, budget-friendly option rather than buying a new book. And besides, a trip to the library is always worth it!

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What makes these jazz books so great for toddlers?

These books are great for their use of rhyming, rhythm, and sounds words – all reading activities that are sure to engage your little ones. And, as you probably already know, I’m a fan of books that are rhythmic! So, if you don’t want to read about jazz in particular, just know there are other options, too.

In fact, almost all of the books make heavy use of sound words, like ‘Tap-tap! Shuffle-Slap!’ in “The Jazz Man” or ‘Thump-di-di-thumps’ in “Max Found Two Sticks”. There is certainly no shortage of exploring all the different sounds around you and all the possibilities of sounds that you and your little one can recreate.

How can I use these books to help my toddler learn about music?

These books are great to help your toddler learn all about sound words as well as rhymes and rhythm of their language. Just know that by reading these kinds of books to them, you are already introducing them to new concepts and ideas! This, in and of itself, helps your child learn more about music. If they enjoy these types of books, here are just a few ways you can use these books to delve deeper into the world of jazz:

  • Read one of the books and then listen to a simple, short jazz piece, like Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” or Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag”. 
  • Ask them what sounds they hear around them and get them to imitate those sounds.
  • Get your toddler to tap out their own rhythm with two sticks (or wooden spoons) or various objects.
  • Have your little one try to make various sound words, like “shh”, “pop!” or “zip”.  

That’s just a few ways that you can use these books to introduce your toddlers to the very basics of jazz. As always, be creative and explore your own ways to make these books a musical experience.

Jazz makes use of all kinds of various rhythmic patterns, as these books illustrate. So, for an easy introduction for your little ones into this genre of music, check out these top 5 books for introducing your little ones to jazz.

Here are 5 excellent examples of jazz books to read to your toddler

What a Wonderful World, illustrated by Jom Hopgood

Now, this book is, as you might have guessed, based upon the lyrics to the well-known song. It’s an easy ready and provides colorful illustrations for the song lyrics. This book also provides a good opportunity to flip through the pages as the music plays or for you to slowly sing the words while flipping through the pages. Either way, you will introduce your little one to an absolute classic song.

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure, by Wynton Marsalis

Here, you’ll take your little one on an exciting adventure through all the possibilities of sounds! Each action makes some sort of sound and by reading this book, you’ll show your child that if they listen, too, they’ll be able to hear all those sounds and more! This book is great for showing your little one all manner of sounds.

Max Found Two Sticks, by Brian Pinkney

A boy named Max discovers the rhythmic possibilities that two sticks can provide! As he wanders, he experiments how the sticks sound on different objects. With this book, you also teach your little one a number of new musical sounds. And, at the very least, you’ll teach them to look all around them for their own rhythmic inspirations. 

This Jazz Man, by Karen Ehrhardt

This jazz-influenced book is based upon the classic children’s tune “This Old Man”. Even if you don’t know the tune, the book is full of rhymes, musical words, and sound words that your little will love. All these combine to create a musical experience even without singing. Similar to the previous two books, there are many sound words that encourage your child to think about all the different sound they can make, too!

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, by Christopher Raschka

With this book, you can follow along with all the sounds of this jazz style. Charlie Parker Played Be Bop makes use of rhythmic patterns with the text. Repeated words and made-up sounds will emphasise their rhythms. But also the repetitions of portions of the text illustrates the repetitions within Charlie Parker’s music. Try reading this book with a bit of swing and rhythm to feel the music within the words. 

If you aren’t familiar with Charlie Parker, just know he was a well-known and extremely talented saxophonist. And if you’d like to listed to his music, start with his recording of “Cheryl” with other jazz musicians. You’ll definitely get a feel for the various, dynamic rhythms and how this text represents that!

So, there you have a simple collection of books that will encourage your littlest ones to make their own jazzy sounds and explore the sounds around them. These jazz books are definitely geared towards toddlers and helps them understand the vast array of sounds they hear on a daily basis! 

Encourage them to make their own jazzy sounds, create their own rhythms, and explore new ways of making music. And again, just reading these kinds of books helps them learn, so enjoy this new reading style!

Which books about jazz or jazz artists have you discovered? I’m always on the look out for new ideas myself, so don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below!

Happy music making (and music reading!),
Liz

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