Music is helping Bethlehem students improve their reading skills

Written by on March 10, 2022

Music is helping Bethlehem students improve their reading skills

By Megan Frank
March 9, 2022

Calypso Elementary School students listen to Brandon Harvey, aka ‘Bowtie Brandon,’ on March 8, 2022. (Photo | Megan Frank/WLVR)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Over the past few years the pandemic has impacted how children learn and several recent studies show children across the country are behind in reading. 

To help students get back in the groove, one Lehigh Valley school district is incorporating music into its literacy program.  

Listen to the story.

The Bethlehem Area School District (BASD) has been using the Wonders literacy program from McGraw Hill Education.  The curriculum, which is geared towards students from kindergarten through 5th grade, focuses on improving reading skills through interactive learning experiences like song and dance.

Brandon Harvey is a senior national literacy specialist for McGraw Hill and hosts movement and song videos for the Wonders program.  

“The videos are really focused on phonics and grammar skills,” Harvey said,  “It’s about the science of reading.  How do we learn to read?  My songs and dance moves are meant to help engage students.”

Harvey travels the country to talk to students and educators about reading. This week, he visited two Bethlehem schools, Calypso and Clearview elementary schools. 

“They started watching his videos in kindergarten and first grade when they were learning their letters and what sounds they make,” said Susan Walker, a second grade teacher at Calypso. 

Walker said the interactive videos are a great tool to have as she works to get her students back in the rhythm of in-person learning.

“When kids come back in-person, the first focus is their social and emotional learning and getting them acclimated to being back in school every day,” said Walker. “They’re working hard to pick everything back up.”

Walker’s students greeted Harvey, who is better known to students by his nickname “Bow Tie Brandon,” by holding up paper bow ties.

“They were very excited when he walked in because this is a person that they’ve had so many wonderful learning experiences with,” said Walker. “He helps them connect to what they’re learning. The program engages them and keeps them active.” 

For students around the country, Harvey said catching up on pandemic-related learning setbacks will take time, but he believes it can be done.

“There are gaps but that just means we have to keep working hard at meeting kids where they are,” Harvey said,  “I think it takes patience, I think it takes planning. I believe kids, especially, can rebound.”

The Wonders literacy program has been incorporated in classrooms across the BASD.

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