TORONTO —; Rainbow Songs Foundation is making a difference in the lives of young families living in poverty, through the use of music.
For the past decade, the foundation has been partnered with the City of Toronto to provide parents and their children, ages six and under, with access to high-quality, interactive music programs for free.
“We know that music provides neurological and social benefits for people in general, and at a young age when parents and children learn music together, they can enjoy it all day everyday throughout their lives,” said Leslie Nicholson, Chair of Programming.
With the dedication of volunteers and professional music instructors, enriching musical learning experiences are possible for families relying on emergency shelters and government-funded housing throughout the GTA.
“I come here once a week and I stay for about 40 minutes and lead them through a whole variety of activities, so both children and parents,” said David Lewis, a music instructor at Rainbow Songs Foundation.
The programs aim to teach children language, numeracy, and other age-specific skills in a fun and exciting way.
They also uniquely focus on sign language and music from around the world using instruments from different cultures, “Like the Chinese gong or the Tibetan singing bowl from Tibet,” said Lewis, adding that “at the end of class we have a big jam.”
Classes include eight to 15 children and their parents, reaching an estimated 225 families in a year through drop-in centers and Toronto Community Housing.
“We have a lot of families who may have some communication issues or development issues,” said Marnie Bernstein, lead family support worker at Gooch Family Drop-In Center.
“And music is always a part of the programs, because that, we know, is the key to the development of language and literacy in young children.”
Beyond these music classes, the program is impacting families in their homes and communities.
“The families benefit in that they’re learning the structure and the music and the instruments when they’re here,” said Nicholson.
“And when they take them outside of class, they’re strengthening those connections further.”
Rainbow Songs aims to utilize music to nurture every soul, regardless of economic status.
“It’s made a difference in my life,” said Lewis. “And I can see that it makes a difference in the lives of the kids that I see every day.”