Reading, writing and rhythm: Libraries hosting kid musicfest

The Not-Its! rocked Belmont Library earlier this month.

Add another ‘r’ t o that ubiquitous list of reading, writing and arithmetic — rhythm.

Throughout September, October and early November, the younger set can get their groove on at local libraries in the Peninsula’s first-ever Tricycle Music Fest showcasing what library officials call “kindie rock.” The weekend concerts give families a free activity on a day when they might not be so caught up in work and other responsibilities. The visits by such artists as the 2013 Grammy winners the Okee Dokee Brothers and The Pop Ups also instill skills key to early literacy like vocabulary, listening and language.

“Even if a child doesn’t like to read, this helps parents make the connection because music is a child’s first language,” said program coordinator Carine Risley, manager of the Atherton and Brisbane libraries. “This is a phenomenal way to learn.”

Risley said a common misconception about early literacy is that it means teaching babies and toddlers to read. Instead, she said it is about having those skills in place for when reading and writing time comes. Developing those skills comes out of singing and playing like that offered by the Tricycle Music Fest.

She said it is also a great way to have a little fun.

San Francisco has hosted the Tricycle Music Fest since 2009 but this is the first time teaming up with libraries down the Peninsula. Risley began talking with organizer Christy Estrovitz, early literacy coordinator for the San Francisco Public Library, and the two realized partnering made more logistical sense than mounting two separate festivals. Together, this year’s event is considered the largest “kindie rock” festival on the West Coast.

The Not-Its! rocked Belmont earlier this month as did the Corner Laughers who sang a special Happy Birthday song at the Portola Valley Library. But the Hipwaders will bring their show to the Redwood City Fair Oaks Library on Sept. 21 followed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay the following weekend.

Unlike the quiet one typically associates with the image of a library, the music festival aims to get kids and parents on their feet singing and dancing along. Many of the concerts are outside and include information about library services. Sometimes the book mobile makes an appearance and one stop included a traveling exhibit of lightweight building blocks.

At the first show in Brisbane, more than 100 people showed up and Risley expects the turnout to continue growing.

Adding to the special concert feel? Custom-decorated tricycle raffles at every show and the chance for one lucky reader to enjoy the full VIP experience: a snack with the band, souvenirs and even a song dedicated just to them.

Each show runs about 50 minutes and targets children 2 to 7 and their families. Risley said she and others with the library hope the lessons of the concerts stay with them far past the afternoon of rocking and rolling.

The first three years of life are critical for learning, particularly literacy, and studies show that 88 percent of high school dropouts could not read well by third grade, Risley said. Researchers knew that reading was important but now there is an extra push to include playing, talking, singing and writing, she said.

“If you miss certain benchmarks it’s very difficult for you to catch up,” Risley said. “There’s no time to waste.”

The San Mateo County Library system wants the festival to become an annual event although it’s taking the idea one step at a time — one song and dance step, that is.

For a full list of showtimes and locations visit

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

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