North Fayette librarian uses music, movement to teach literacy skills

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Among the many librarians breaking the stereotype of sitting behind a desk and shushing patrons is Caitlyn Bovard, head teen librarian at Western Allegheny Community Library in North Fayette.

Ms. Bovard often can be found dancing, singing and moving to the beat of classical music alongside students in her Music and Movement class.

She developed the class to help teach music, listening, literacy and motor language skills to children ages 3 to 5.

It captured the attention of the Pennsylvania Library Association, which recently awarded Ms. Bovard the Carolyne L. Smith Best Practices in Early Learning Award in recognition of exceptional service to children under the age of 6.

This is the second year in a row that the library received the Best Practices Award. Amanda Kirby, head of youth services, received the award last year for her program Rolling and Strolling.

Ms. Bovard will be presented with the award during the association’s annual conference Sept. 28-Oct. 1 in Lancaster. During the conference, Ms. Bovard, who is a member of the association, will hold a session that details her program for other libraries to replicate.

This is her first year working in the library science field.

Ms. Bovard attributed much of the program’s success to the early literacy standards that it meets, including coordination, extended vocabulary in different languages, and listening, language, motor and math skills.

She said she strongly believes in using music to help teach early literacy skills to young children, which stems from her background in music.

Upon completing her undergraduate work as a music performance major, she taught general music for grades K-8 at St. Irenaeus School in Oakmont for two years. A classical flutist, she played in a few ensembles with the goal of joining an orchestra, but decided to pursue library science instead.

She was drawn initially to the field to be a music librarian, but changed course after gaining experience in the public service field, specifically in youth services.

“It was such a natural transition. I was so attracted to being in public service and just being able to help people,” she said. “That for me is really enjoyable.”

She came to the library a year ago as the assistant youth services librarian, through which she coordinated many of the programs for younger children. When the position of head teen librarian opened up, she stepped into it but continued to run the children’s programs.

When developing the Music and Movement class, Ms. Bovard said her background in education left her undaunted by the task of developing a class for 3- to-5-year-olds and that the biggest challenge was holding their attention.

The class meets for 45 minutes to one hour and is held in a large community room in the library, which enables the children to move around.

A typical class begins with stretches and balance work, and then Ms. Bovard plays “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saëns and “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, during which she encourages the children to recognize what kind of animal is being represented by the music, and move accordingly.

They also sing along to songs she plays on the piano, play with rhythm sticks, and participate in listening exercises.

In addition, Ms. Bovard covers a music topic each class and its corresponding vocabulary and dynamics, such as piano and forte.

She recently incorporated a bean bag coordination activity in which children pass a bean bag to the beat of music that increases and decreases in tempo. This teaches balancing, listening skills and teamwork, she said, and though it proved difficult for her students at first, she said they quickly caught on.

Ms. Bovard said she is not surprised at all by what her students have been able to learn and retain at their young age.

“I’ve always known that music is something that kids grasp at any age level,” she said. “Even if they don’t grasp it right away, they’re still going to remember it later on. It’s nothing but a positive effect.”

Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer:



Age: 26

Hometown: Brighton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh

Education: Bachelor’s of music in flute performance from Duquesne University; master’s of library information science from the University of Pittsburgh

Family: Mother, Diane Bovard

Hobbies: Reading and running.

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