If you’re trying to raise a kid with musical taste as exceptional as your own, start by blasting a diverse playlist you can both nod your head to. Then, end with bed time stories about some of the greatest musical talents in history, from the Ramones to Tito Puente to Ella Fitzgerald. Also, maybe hang a few of DJ Khaled’s keys to success around the nursery.
Encourage a different kind of anarchy in your house with a book written in the lyrics of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and The Clash. The best part is that it manages to namecheck all of those bands that made you want to run away, get piercings and dabble in drugs without any running away, piercings, or drugs. Man … you’re old.
Ages: 3 -7
What Is Punk? by Eric Morse and Anny Yi ($16)
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews relates his rise to iconic brass player in a story full of New Orleans musical history. Follow Shorty as he goes from trombone-playing prodigy to jazz Fest headliner. The only downside will be when your kid demands you take them to Mardi Gras, which probably isn’t quite the same experience with a toddler.
Ages: 4 – 8
Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews and Bryan Collier ($18)
It’s the inspirational tale of Ella Fitzgerald, who went from being an orphan girl in 1930’s Harlem and dancing for loose change to singing at the Apollo Theater. No offense to Lady Gaga, but if that’s what your kids think of as a great jazz singer, you need to act quickly.
Ages: 8 -12
Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat by Roxane Orgill ($17)
You know there’s only 2 Beatles left, right? Get your kid on board with the Fab Four with this book by Ringo, based on one of only 2 Beatles songs that he wrote. Because, “Don’t Pass Me By” isn’t going to hold their attention like a friendly octopus. Added bonus: give yourself a bedtime break with a CD of Ringo reading the story aloud.
Ages: 4 – 8
Octopus’s Garden by Ringo Starr and Ben Cort ($18)
You’ve always dreamed of being a DJ, but your skills are more Spotify shuffle than wheels of steel. So let Clive Campbell (aka DJ Kool Herc) take over. His story about the start of hip hop will have your kid demanding their own turntables, or at least a mic. Bonus points for putting down some cardboard and demonstrating a proper backspin before bedtime.
Ages: 6 – 10
When The Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill and Theodore Taylor ($18)
Since Life may be a bit provocative for the kids (“Daddy, what’s heroin?”) consider this the selective, G-rated history of The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. His daughter Theodora did all the illustrations, while the titular “Gus” tells the story of how his grandson Keith got started on the 6-string (results with your own kid may vary).
Ages: 4 – 7
Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar by Keith Richards and Theodora Richards ($16)
This bilingual story of this iconic Latin American percussionist is both a Spanish language and music lesson wrapped up in one colorful story. “King of Mambo” Tito Puente may encourage your kid to start banging pots and pans, but while your head is pounding, just keep reminding yourself: This is how Tito got his start.
Ages: 4 -8
Tito Puente: Mambo King by Monica Brown and Rafael Lopez ($18)
You can still enjoy Bob Marley, responsible parent. Every Little Thing (and its companion One Love ) is an uplifting book for little ones that adults don’t need to be lifted to enjoy. It’s written by an actual Marley, so you know it’s good.
Ages: 3 – 6
Every Little Thing by Bob Marley, Cedella Marley and Vanessa Brantley-Newton ($17)
This New York Times bestseller is the most extensive and visual introduction to hip hop you’ll find, which vividly illustrates its roots in African American poetry, as well. The book is important; the accompanying CD is vital — packed with classics from Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, and Mos Def. No “Parental Guidance” needed (but you’ll provide some, anyway).
Hip Hop Speaks To Children by Nikki Giovanni and Michele Noiset ($20)