Arkansas Author Helps Parents Make Play Time Educational, Musical

May 13, 2013

With research drawing positive associations between music lessons and IQ, many new parents may wonder how they can encourage their young one’s experiences with the arts more effectively.

Author and music teacher Amy Au with her daughter.

One Little Rock author has come out with a children’s book she hopes will help parents bring their child’s early educational experiences to life.

Amy Au enjoys music and is an accomplished piano and violin player. She’s a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Columbia University and has taught children at New York City’s prestigious Mandell School. She got married, and her husband suggested they move to Little Rock. 

"He called me up and said, 'Well, what do you think of Little Rock, Arkansas?' and I said 'I don't know, but we don't have any kids yet, and we don't really have our own place, let's do it.' So I came down here and then I found a job at St. Mark's Episcopal Day School, and I'm teaching music to the two through four year olds right now," says Au. 

The idea of the book came out of activities she had done with the kids she’d taught in New York and the ones she teaches here in Little Rock .

"A lot of times when I teach such young children music, if they do need to learn lyrics, I use images to help them. I find that when they see a picture or an illustration, they seem to grasp on to the concept much faster," says Au. 

She said the kids seemed to love it and her sister, who’s not a teacher and has young children, appreciated it. So Au set out on a mission to help parents who don’t have a teaching background and who haven’t really formally studied topics like how to engage children in curriculum.

She thought if she made a book with concepts like counting down and peppered in some ideas of how parents can incorporate things like tracing your finger along with the number on the page, it could lead to true “teaching moments” between parents and young ones at home. 

"I want to empower the parents to feel like they, too, can be involved. They can just have a quick glance and be like, 'Oh, that's something feasible for me to do with my kid," says Au. 

The book is called The Five Minibees, and Au – who did the writing and illustrations for the book – says it’s a lot about a concept called “purposeful playing,” a term often used in the teaching world. She says purposeful playing is something that isn’t hard and doesn’t have to take a long time.

"Sometimes when you're tired and you've come home from work and it's been a long day and you're reading this book, you're like, 'Well, I'm just reading this book.' But having some fresh ideas just elevates the level of purposeful playing," says Au.   

Since the words are naturally musical, Au encourages parents to read it and add their own tune wherever they want.

Au says she enjoys her job at St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School not just because she gets to teach the children there, but because she now also gets to take her young daughter, who is only an infant, to work with her.

"I do attachment parenting, so she is literally attached to me. I figured out how to play the guitar on my side with her on me. She's very quiet, so that helps and she'll sing along with the kids from time to time," says Au.