Tune In! A Book-Based Music Adventure

Our music-focused summer and out-of-school-time program is all about experiencing the many forms of music in our lives!

Imagine making music with your body, inventing simple instruments with recycled materials, playing conductor, building community through call-and-response singing and group dances, creating a music time capsule, drawing to music, designing an album cover, exploring voices and songs of social change, and writing original jingles, parodies, and raps.

Tune In gives kids a chance to learn more about music and music genres, to hear about great performers and composers, and to write lyrics and compose songs. It features music from around the world — from classical to salsa to hip hop.

mosaic of kids doing music-related activities

Tune In combines hands-on activities with great fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and picture book biographies — books such as Charlie Parker Played Be Bop and Celia Cruz: Queen of Salsa — inspiring kids to read about musicians and composers from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Kids will have a chance to record original music and take the stage through a welcoming Open Mic. Kids and adults are also invited to create a collage-style Music Mural together that documents all the explorations, discoveries, and joy of the 5-day camp.

Tune In is designed for educators, summer program leaders, and parents — and it's free! Join us … to explore, create, read, write, and learn — all about music.

Here's what kids will learn about, day by day

  • Day 1: Music in our lives
  • Day 2: Creating our own music
  • Day 3: Music makers and musical styles
  • Day 4: Connecting to each other with music
  • Day 5: Changing our world with music

A 5-day program that fits your schedule

Tune In is adaptable! Use the materials each day for five days in a row, or once a week for five weeks (or any other way you like) to add hands-on learning to your summer programming. The materials are designed for elementary-aged children, but can be adapted for older or younger kids.

How music impacts our brains and learning

This article from Edutopia, How music primes the brain for learning, offers insight into the power of music: “Consistent exposure to music, like learning to play a musical instrument, or taking voice lessons, strengthens a particular set of academic and social-emotional skills that are essential to learning. In ways that are unmatched by other pursuits ... learning music powerfully reinforces language skills, builds and improves reading ability, and strengthens memory and attention, according to the latest research on the cognitive neuroscience of music.”

Get your free Tune In toolkit

The toolkit includes 5 topics for exploration through fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, new vocabulary, and fun writing prompts. Each topic also includes recommendations for kid-friendly media — websites, video, podcasts, and apps. A Tune In certificate and Growing Readers tip sheets are included in the Appendix.

Complete toolkit

Download and print the PDF.

Day by day

If you want to choose individual sections of the Tune In toolkit, just select any of the links below to download and print a PDF.

Note: Be sure to view and print from Adobe Reader (or an alternative PDF reader), not your web browser.

Video and audio resources

As you dive into Tune In, you'll see that the toolkit includes a rich library of video and audio resources to share with kids for each day’s activities (and to help you prepare for each day). For quick access, visit this page: Tune In Toolkit: Video and Audio.

Books about music

children's books about music and musicians

The Tune In toolkit includes dozens of recommended picture books, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry: Tune In booklists. You can also browse our complete library of children's books about Music and Musicians.

Getting ready: tips for using the Tune In toolkit

  • You’ll find an introduction to the concepts covered and recommended books for each day, as well as a list of questions to guide explorations and experiments, and a list of “music words” that kids might not be familiar with.
  • Start by gathering books from the list provided from your library.
  • Choose fiction and nonfiction books from the list provided.
  • Read them through before you read them to the kids so you know what happens, and can spot any unfamiliar words or concepts you’ll need to explain. Also, look for places to ask questions while you're reading to engage listeners.
  • Think about which other parts of the program you’d like to do after reading the book(s).
  • An activity is always a good idea, but you may also want to include writing, exploring related websites and apps, and going on a field trip, too.

Learning with the kids

  • Introduce the theme for the day and ask kids what they know about it.
  • Read one or more of the books aloud and ask questions. Listen carefully to the kids’ answers. By reading to them and asking questions, you’ll get them thinking about the topic, and what they want to learn. You’ll also increase their understanding and excitement. Read another book and repeat.
  • Choose a hands-on activity to let kids explore theme. By doing an activity, the kids get to use the concepts and new words they have learned.
  • Look for a local connection. How can you connect the ideas in the books or the activities with the kids’ personal experience?
  • Keep asking questions throughout and listening carefully to the kids’ answers.
  • Encourage kids to write about what they are learning or curious about by using one of the writing prompts in the toolkit.
  • Provide access to books about the topic for kids to look at on their own.
  • Show kids websites and apps that they can use to learn more about the topic and give kids time to try them out.
  • Take a field trip to further explore your topic for the day or theme for the week.

You can choose any of the components, all of them, or just one or two, but we recommend that you always Start With a Book!

Tune In toolkit authors

Mary Amato, Head Writer
Mary is an educator, songwriter, musician, and the award-winning author of many books for children and young adults. A former classroom teacher, she develops and teaches popular songwriting workshops and residencies for schools, libraries, and nonprofits across the country and online. Her partners have included Carpe Diem Arts, Strathmore Music Center, the Friends of the National Zoo, The American Library Association, the Lima Symphony Orchestra, and The Washington Post. Often, her fiction, including Guitar Notes and the Lucy McGee series, explores the joy of music and inspires young readers to write their own songs. Mary Amato's website 

Gayle Danley, Contributing Writer
Gayle is a poet who has received numerous awards for her work over the past three decades — from being named the Maryland Young Audience's Artist of the Year and National Young Audience's Artist of the Year to being named the International Poetry Slam Champion. Recently, the Maryland Library Association chose her as Maryland Poet of the Year. In addition to writing and performing, she teaches children across the country how to access their emotions through the force of words. She has been profiled by CBS 60 Minutes, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. A passionate educator, she develops curricula, including her online course, “Lessons in Poetry.” Listen to Gayle's TED-Ed talk: Becoming a Slam Poet in 5 Steps 

Lea Morris, Contributing Writer
Lea was born in Baltimore to a father who toured the world playing trumpet in the funk band, Black Heat, and a mother who dreamed of opera while performing with her siblings in the Jones Family Gospel Singers. Lea was singing on the pulpit of the Baptist church where she grew up as soon she could speak. When she discovered the acoustic guitar as a teenager, she began teaching herself to play by writing songs. Her exploration continued as an exchange student at a German music conservatory. Having shared the stage with luminaries including Odetta, Mavis Staples, and Dar Williams, Lea's sound seamlessly blends gospel, jazz, country, and R&B into her own style — SoulFolk. Lea Morris's website 

The development of the Tune In toolkit was made possible by a generous grant from the Park Foundation and the National Education Association.