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Everybody Loves “Popcorn Kernels”

If Pittsburgh Ready had a theme song, it would be “Popcorn Kernels”! The catchy tune and entertaining motions embody our mission to support child care providers and encourage early literacy.

When I show up for a storytime, “Popcorn Kernels” is the most-requested song. So, of course, we work it in every time! You’re tempted to sing it right now, aren’t you?? Go ahead, grab a scarf, and get ready to belt it out! Here are the lyrics and accompanying motions:

(Sing to the tune of Frere Jacques)
Popcorn Kernels, Popcorn Kernels (wave your scarf in the air)
In the pot, in the pot (scrunch your scarf up into your fists)
Shake them, shake them, shake them
Shake them, shake them, shake them (shake your scarf in your fists)
‘Till they pop, ‘till they pop! (toss your scarf into the air)

Hidden within this simple, silly song are many opportunities for children to develop the skills they need to one day read and write. As they sing the rhyme, they develop phonological awareness or the ability to hear and play with the small sounds in words. As they perform the motions—squeezing the scarf into a ball and then throwing it in the air, they demonstrate narrative skills, following a sequence, and develop the fine-motor coordination necessary for writing. Since it is such a joyful song, the children also learn positive associations with books and storytimes. All of these skills and experiences prepare children to read, write and succeed in school.

Pittsburgh Ready works with five partners—child care sites in Pittsburgh committed to enhancing their literacy practices. They are: Clara’s Community Child Care, Gwennypooh’s Daycare, Davis Family Childcare, Kidsville Daycare Center, and Miss Sheree’s Family Hope Daycare. This program is supported by a grant from PNC Grow Up Great, one of the Library’s generous funders.

Part of their commitment includes participating in a series of professional development workshops hosted by the Early Learning BLAST team of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The first of these was Every Child Ready to Read, a national initiative promoting literacy through five simple and fun actions: talk, sing, read, write, and play. This workshop emphasizes why these actions are so effective and how to implement them for optimal results. For example, have you ever thought about why so many songs are set to the tune of “London Bridge” and “Frere Jacques”? Children can distinguish the individual sounds within the words because each syllable is a different note. This helps children learn to decode words later. Also, these songs can be adapted with new lyrics easily, helping children acquire new vocabulary. Repeating popular and familiar tunes creates a predictable ritual within the storytime, allowing children to feel safe and secure; that’s a promising atmosphere for learning. Knowing the deeper long-term benefits of a simple action–like singing a song–motivates the teachers to sing more often. Plus, teachers have added conviction that the activity is really valuable. Teachers also realize that a productive storytime is probably not a quiet event! When toddlers and preschool children are engaged, it can be a noisy, physical and exuberant scene. Like making popcorn, it might be messy, but it’s worth it! As the teachers continue to develop their own expertise, they will be empowered to model these literacy-enhancing practices for the families they serve.

To learn more songs and rhymes that promote early literacy skills, check out Rhyme Time.

Pittsburgh Ready reflects Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s mission to engage preschool youth meaningfully and develop innovative opportunities for professional growth.

Pittsburgh Ready: Preparing Children to read and succeed.

Nora S. is  part of Carnegie Library’s Early Learning BLAST Outreach team. She loves her storytimes with the Pittsburgh Ready partners, running in Frick Park, playing with her dogs, and cooking new recipes.  She makes her popcorn with coconut oil and butter, which you should try. It’s delicious. 

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