Dr. Patrick Walton

Associate Professor – Education
Thompson Rivers University

Office: AE289
Phone: (250) 828-5378


I was using cooperative group games to teach reading in my previous research, and I found that singing jingles seemed to help a lot. For example, teaching children to read words like rat cat sat was easier and more fun if we sang the words as a jingle rather than just saying them as words in a list. Jingles are basically words put to rhythm. We have all had the experience of listening to a catchy song, and then “hear” the song in our mind and even hum it for hours afterwards. Jingles are easy and speedy to learn.

Question 1. If we use jingles to teach reading, will learning to read be made easier and quicker? Phrased as a possible explanation, will adding music to words provide additional neutral pathways to areas of the brain primarily involved in reading and language?

Question 2. Children often move or dance when they hear music. Will adding movement to the songs help make learning to read easier?

My original thought was to use existing children’s songs. That didn’t work out for a number of reasons. The fatal error was that all the songs used lyrics that were not words you would use to teach beginning reading. The solution was to create original children’s songs that controlled factors like lyrics (e.g., cat hat rat are good), pitch, and length. In the end we piloted 16 songs with Kindergarten children, and we kept the nine songs that were consistent hits. If children didn’t like the song within the few 15 or so seconds, they would become obviously disinterested. They liked songs that were easy to learn, had a bouncy or soothing rhythm or beat, and had some type of movement (e.g., sign language, arm movements).

I employed two professional jazz musicians to work with me (Michael Turner, Cathi Marshall) and three teacher musicians (Lance Jang, Dale Kalhood, Heather Bounds) to create original children’s songs designed to teach key prereading skills (phoneme awareness, rhyming, letter-sounds) and beginning reading. Teachers involved in the project were Judy Fehr, Jennifer Swan, Jody Rushka, Syd Griffith, Jill Fry, and Elaine Holmes, to name a few. Body movements were incorporated into the songs (e.g., sign language, a buzzing bumble bee made with fingers), and the text of the lyrics was presented after children had learned the song (e.g., Pat the rat, big and fat). In this way, the first words the children read were already known to them as song lyrics.

You can hear samples of the songs at our website http://www.singmoveandread.com/services.html. We called the program Sing, Move and Read.

I have now completed two research projects on the Sing, Move and Read program, and the findings are very positive. About 80% of the Kindergarten children we taught were able to read after eight weeks of teaching with the Sing, Move and Read program. Also, one of the children in the study was autistic, and he was one of the 80% of children who had learned to read. This is potentially a very important finding.

Michael Turner, Cathi Marshall, myself, Lance Jang, Judy Fehr

   Simple Truths   – song by Patrick Walton, July 15, 2004, duet

    I’ve given birth to a child.

    I’ve had the love of a man.

    I’ve seen the morning sunrise,

    Over the Sea of Japan.


    I watched my mother die.

    I saw the start of a war.

    Talked to a Catholic priest,

    And to an Amsterdam whore.


    And from all of this, a simple truth to discover.

    A most precious of life is the love of a mother.

    Mother and child. 

    Mother and child. 

    Mother and child. 

    Mother and child.


    I have fathered a son.

    My heart was broke and recast.

    My mind was touched by a sage,

    Came in first came in last.


    I’ve made tracks in the sand,

    On the beach in Corfu.

    Rode a bicycle down,

    The streets of old Kathmandu.


    And from all of this, a simple truth to uncover.

    A most precious of life is the love of a father.

    Father and child. 

    Father and child. 

    Father and child. 

    Father and child. 


    I brought a child back to life.

    I stared death in the eyes.

    I was broke and run down.

    Saw some truth heard some lies.


    I’ve spent a night in a jail.

    I trekked the slopes in Nepal.

    I was praised and betrayed,

    Strolled through the tomb Taj Mahal.


    And from all of this, a simple truth to compile.

    A most precious of life is the love of a child.

    Love of a child.

    Love of a child.

    Love of a child.

    Love of a child. 


 **  Click her to hear a sample of Patrick’s music.


  Patrick’s Art


  My dabbling in art. Pencil drawings of my parents from old photographs.

Alice Pinsonneault – my mother circa 1945 post-war bride

Captain David Walton – my father circa 1958

  Publications and Presentations


Walton, P. D., Turner, M., & Marshall, C. (2005). Using children’s songs to teach reading. Paper accepted for presentation at the American Education Research Association conference, Montreal, April 14, 2005.

Walton, P. D. & Walton, L. D. (2002). Beginning reading by teaching in rime analogy: Effects on phonological skills, letter-sound knowledge, working memory, and word reading strategies. Scientific Studies of Reading, 6, 79-115.

Walton, P. D., Walton, L. D., & Felton, K. (2001). Teaching rime analogy or letter recoding reading strategies to prereaders: Effects on prereading skills and word reading. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 160-180.

Walton, P. D., Thorneloe, S., Bowden, M. E., & Angus, M. (2001). Evaluation of a rime-based reading program with Shuswap and Heiltsuk First Nations prereaders. Reading and Writing, 14, 229-264.

Walton, P. D. (1997). Teaching reading in English in First Nations immersion settings in Canada. Paper presented at the China/Canada Conference on Minority Education, Xi’an, China, June, 1997.

Walton, P. D. (1997). Analogical and letter recoding strategies of weak beginning readers. Paper presented at the VIII European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Rennes, France, September, 1997.

Walton, P. D. (1996). Beginning reading by rhyming analogy or letter recoding: Evidence for a link. Paper presented at the XXVI International Congress of Psychology, Montreal, Canada, August, 1996.

Walton, P. D. (1995). Rhyming ability, phoneme identity. letter-sound knowledge, and the use of orthographic analogy by prereaders. Journal of Educational Psychology, 4, 587-597.

Walton, P. D. (1995). Perspectives on teaching reading to First Nations children. Paper presented at the China/Canada Conference on Knowledge in Education: The Challenge of Gender, Ethnicity, and Language, Toronto, Canada, May 1995.