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EDUcullen: Use Katy Perry & YouTube Lyric Videos to Help Your Child Learn to Read

Who do you think gets credited for making the very first “lyric video”?

Three clues for you:

  1. The video was released back in 1987.
  2. The song is “Sign o’ the Times.”
  3. The artist is Prince.

Did you guess Prince? AMAZING!

If only the stars of "Alphabet Street" had cooperated, this honour would have been theirs.

If only the stars of “Alphabet Street” had cooperated, this honour would have been theirs.

You’ll see it debated that Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is the original. Regardless, Prince’s concept of showing a song’s entire lyric in a video affected George Michael. This evolved to Cee Lo Green, which made professional lyric videos extremely popular.

lyric videos infographic
Look, Mom, I learned how to make an infographic.

But what do words in music videos have to do with education, anyway?

It’s a hook to help with literacy.

Look & Listen

To further your child’s interest in reading (and music), look up a song’s lyric video on YouTube. The benefit? She can connect what she hears with the words she’s seeing onscreen. (It’s like when you put a name to a face: “I thought that word sounded familiar. Yep, I definitely recognize it now.”)

Lately I get to hear songs with a more mature appeal while my daughter watches words pop up in Bruno Mars’s “Treasure” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” which helps to improve her vocabulary (with parental assistance).

It lets her ask about new words, too. While listening to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” she inquired:

“What is ‘Jesus’?”

And I reminded her:

“He’s the little baby that you took out of Grammie’s nativity scene and got stuck in the Fisher-Price gas station elevator shaft.”

Prescreen Videos

You might be in a hurry for your kid to switch from Wiggles to BugglesBaby Beluga to Achtung Baby… “Humpty Dumpty” to “Humpty Dance”…

You’re either the best parent or the worst.

But, just like a teacher must, you should prescreen the content of YouTube videos. The “Treasure” intro has swearing (!!) and in the “Free Fallin’” link everything is crashing to earth: spelling, capitalization and punctuation. (I recommend that those YouTube users watch more lyric videos to improve thei–oh, yes, I do see the problem there.)

If it’s a recent song, however, look for the official lyric video that’s manufactured by the artist or label. Those ones are done correctly.

You’ll need to show interest for this to be effective as a teaching tool but the videos give you a chance to chat about a piece of writing. A lot of youths don’t enjoy studying a book but they’ll stop to read the fantastic “Roar” lyric video from Katy Perrys record company.

Yes, I just credited a Katy Perry song for promoting literacy. Build your ideas with whatever materials the kids want to play with!


Find more education ideas from Peter at

Message him on Twitter: @MrPeterCullen.

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This entry was posted on January 9, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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