Rhythm of Reading: Papa Rap shares ‘language of music’ as libraries wrap up summer programming

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Counting in Spanish gets a thumbs up from Papa Rap.
Photo by Tavi Ellis/Carroll County News

Carroll County libraries were rocked by the rhythm of reading Monday thanks to a visit from Papa Rap and DJ Flex, who taught children how to build a better world through the universal language of music.

During his stop at the Berryville Library, Papa Rap opened the program by introducing the different instruments he brought, including drums, maracas, tambourines and more.

“If I teach you drums today and you like it, you’ll need to practice in order to get good,” he said. “Or, in Spanish, we would say ‘practicar.’”

As with “practice” and “practicar,” Papa Rap told the children that a lot of words sound similar in English and Spanish. For example, he said, “elefante” is the Spanish word for elephant, and “tigre” is the Spanish word for tiger.

“And ‘especial’ means ‘special.’ Everybody is special,” Papa Rap said. “We can also say ‘unico,’ which means ‘unique.’ A lot of words you’re going to listen to in Spanish will be said really fast, and you may have to ask people to slow down. Then you can pick up some of those words.”

Music is a universal language, he said, which can help many people learn a new language.

“You can learn the music of another country and listen to it on repeat to learn some of the language,” Papa Rap said. “A lot of people who come here to learn English listen to the radio all the time for the English music in order to learn because when you hear things that rhyme you tend to remember them better.”

A great way to learn more about languages and anything else, he said, is by reading.

“From Pre-K to third grade, we are learning to read. From fourth grade onward, you are reading to learn,” Papa Rap said. “It’s very important for us to be on grade level and do our best. We need to read, read, read and exercise and exercise our brains. That’s what our show is about today.”

To demonstrate how music can help people learn languages, Papa Rap asked the children to pick an instrument.

“Everybody stand up and find an instrument. Find one that you can identify with,” he said. “We’ll do a few songs with these and then change instruments in a little while.”

Some of the percussion instruments are played by shaking them, he said, while drummers use their hands to play a rhythm. He taught the students how to play each instrument and then asked DJ Flex to put on a beat, turning the group of children into an impromptu band.

Each song featured lyrics in English and Spanish, helping students learn a little of both languages.

One song was a merengue version of the University of Arkansas “Woooo! Pig Sooie!” chant.

“I’m from Puerto Rico, and next to it is an island called the Dominican Republic,” Papa Rap said. “That’s where merengue music comes from. They use a small drum called a tambora.”

He said he got permission from the University of Arkansas to take the lyrics of the Razorback fight song and create a merengue version with some Spanish lyrics so that people who are learning English can still be Razorback fans.

Later, Papa Rap taught the children a song called “Cuidala” about taking care of the water supply.

“ ‘Cuidala’ means ‘Take care of it,’ ” he said. “It’s important to stay hydrated in the summer. You can go about a week without food but only a few days without water. It’s also important that we take care of our water because that is our drinking source.”

Papa Rap continued, “We did a song called ‘Cuidala’ because we have a lot of people in Northwest Arkansas coming from other countries. They don’t know English yet. They’re learning it, but it takes time. This doesn’t mean we can’t take care of the water together, so we made this song for people who speak English or Spanish.”

He also had the children rap the numbers one through 10 in English and Spanish while he played a beat on the drum.

Library director Julie Hall said Papa Rap and DJ Flex’s visit was the library’s last Monday program for the summer.

“We want to celebrate, so Papa Rap and DJ Flex came here to put on a show,” Hall said. “We’re so glad to have them here, and they’re going to need people up here helping. So let’s get up, sing, dance, play some drums and have a good time!”

“Let’s give a hand to the library for doing these programs every Monday,” said Papa Rap. “The great thing about summer is you can read for fun. Let’s thank the library for helping us learn for fun!”

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