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Emily Arrow is short enough to make her ukulele look like a guitar. But she’s all heart.
Originally from Ohio, Arrow has been enamored with music since she can remember, turning her passion for tunes into a full-time career after graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston. After receiving her degree, along with a graduate teaching certification, Arrow moved to Los Angeles to begin teaching music to kids in elementary schools. It was here, among the stacks of children’s books, that Arrow began creating her own musical genre, KidLit Tunes.
The music is joyous and family friendly, full of narrative fluidity.
“Using stories in my classroom was one of my favorite moments of the teaching day, so I started writing custom songs about each story to create a connection between literacy and music education,” Arrow tells the Daily Dot. “I watched as students jumped all in with me and decided I wanted to share with a broader audience—enter YouTube.”
In her videos, Arrow teaches kids dances and movements to her story-based songs that are played by teachers and librarians within lessons. Now a full-time singer and songwriter, Arrow tours the country visiting classrooms that treat her like a celebrity, with kids dancing and singing along to all her songs. But Arrow is gaining notice beyond the 12-and-under crowd. In 2015 she won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and this year was the winner of the National Parenting Product Award.
After sharing her first video on YouTube in 2015, Arrow began using social media to connect with teachers and authors around the country—many of whom she’s since partnered with to write original songs, specifically for their books. By using Twitter and Facebook Live, Arrow has not only been able to connect with audiences far beyond her classroom, but bring literature and music to kids who might not have access to these resources within their own school districts. In a time when education continues to receive swift budget cuts, people like Arrow are crucial in serving kids of all needs and abilities.
“YouTube helps me share my music quickly and easily with teachers, students, and parents,” Arrow says. “My weekly Sunday evening Facebook Live shows are an awesome way for everyone to connect and learn—I learn what kids are excited about and they learn more about literacy and music.”
Fresh off celebrating the release of her second album, Storytime Singalong, Volume 2, Arrow appreciates her success even more knowing the hardships she’s overcome to succeed at this unique career.
“Having an ‘unconventional dream’ means you constantly hit challenges. Lawyers don’t always know the answers, agents don’t always know the answers, lots of people say no. My advice is to simplify your ideas—try a three-day songwriting challenge instead of a 30-day,” encourages Arrow. “If it hits and fans are excited and you’re excited, grow! Ask for help in order to find a good lady mentor. Opening up about your needs and dreams helps other women in your network know where they can step in to support you.”
If there is anything Arrow teaches all of us—young, old, male, female, overall lovers—it’s to take the leap and reach for the dream that might not even have a name yet. Who knows, that dream might just be wild enough to work.
Carly Lanning is a journalist who covers social media. Her work has been published by Psychology Today, NBC, Thrillist, and Ms. Magazine.