by Esme Allen-Creighton
2020 has been a challenging year as we all adapt to new circumstances. For those of us who moved classes online, all new teaching aids have been especially welcome. In addition to the challenges of COVID-19, this period will hopefully be remembered as a time of change, when long-standing issues of systemic racism in our communities are responded to with action in our teaching and institutions.
Within this climate, the ‘We Imagine Music’ book series presents an invaluable resource. Kenesha T Ryce: violin teacher, author and entrepreneur has created a series of books which teach basic issues in violin technique through fun stories and beautiful pictures of diverse students and communities.
There continues to be a diversity issue with children’s literature. One recent study noted ‘in 2018 there were more children’s books featuring animals and other non-human characters (27 per cent) than all types of visible minorities combined (23 per cent). Meanwhile, half of all the children’s books reviewed featured white kids.’
The first book from 2018, ‘Vio’s Violin’, illustrated by Kevin Jones tackles two common technical challenges– how to bow from the elbow, and how to have a left hand tunnel–with rhyming stories and beautiful illustrations. 2020’s ‘Timmy’s Technique’ illustrated by Madeleine Wood, tackles the issues of accidentally playing two strings at once, and having the left-hand thumb grabbing/curling around the fingerboard.
The books are a hit with students and parents. I’ve been reading them aloud in group classes as a wind-down activity and always find a rapt audience. Ms. Ryce is able to explain tricky issues with humorous, memorable anecdotes that can then become ongoing themes in lessons. One student of mine spontaneously recited (her own version) of one of the stories in a lesson after hearing it in group. Parents have been asking how they can order the books to be read at home. Ms Ryce is apparently working on a third book for the series. We can’t wait to hear what she comes up with next!
You can purchase the ‘We Imagine Music’ book series through the author’s website.