Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love music. I truly believe in its therapeutic and educational abilities. I absolutely love pairing a good book with good music. Here are 5 of my favorite musically inspired picture books to read with children. You’ll also find a Spotify playlist to listen to each song before or after reading each story. Each book selected has a special lesson with themes highlighting activism, social emotional learning, gratitude, peace, and hope.

NOTE: If you don’t like any of these song, you will likely not like the books. If you want to introduce your children or students to a variety of genres of music then these songs or lyrics will be worth it. Just like with any book, these should be followed up with conversations around the themes portrayed by the text and illustrations.

Get Up Stand Up

Bob and Cedella Marley, John Jay Cabuay (illustrator)

This adaptation of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ hit “Get Up, Stand Up” sends important messages of love, peace, courage, and truth. This book counters being passive and instead encourages readers to stand up for themselves, others , and for what is right.

What a Wonderful World

Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, Tim Hopgood (illustrator)

Based on Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” this beautiful book is filled with colorful art and positive messages of hope. It highlights the joyful moments of everyday life and being mindful of the beautiful nature all around us.

Coat of Colors

Dolly Parton, Brooke Boynton Hughes (illustrator)

Inspired by Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors”, this book tells the story of a little girl whose family has little money and is made fun of because she couldn’t afford a new winter coat. This book highlights many themes including empathy, gratitude, and perseverance.

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

Kadir Nelson

Based on one of America’s most popular spirituals, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, this story portrays a little Black boy’s joy in connecting with people and nature. Following the lyrics of this popular song, each page features breathtaking illustrations from a child’s perspective.

Happy

Pharrell Williams,

This Grammy Award winning hit was turned into a picture book featuring beautiful photography of actual kids with lyrics following along on each page. Now I’ll admit you can’t help but sing along as you read the book, so be prepared for the song to be stuck in your head for days.

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