Letting the Music Move You
A retired teacher and school librarian from Kentucky has made a name for herself linking rhyme with reason.
Several years ago, Joan McElfresh--known as "Mrs. Mac'' to her grade school fans--was persuaded by her daughters to see the hit movie "Revenge of the Nerds.'' She was especially taken by a scene in which one of the nerds wins a class election by making a campaign speech performed entirely in rap.
She came away from the flick convinced that rap's rhyme and rhythm held the power to educate.
Coincidentally, Mrs. McElfresh was set to begin a library program at an alternative language-arts school in Cincinnati. With the encouragement of her principal, she composed a six-minute ditty explaining the Dewey Decimal System to elementary school students.
"Please lend an ear 'cause I'm here to say I can help you find your books in the Dewey way,'' one of the songs begins. Other songs promote each Dewey classification, from geography to bibliography, all without doing damage to "the King's English,'' according to Mrs. Mac.
Just like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Mrs. Mac developed a following of teachers and students alike, but she led them, not into trouble, but into the stacks. She even recorded her songs to meet the demand created by word-of-mouth praise and several talk-show appearances.
Since then, she's shipped off tapes as far away as Saudi Arabia and has gotten fan mail from Norway.
But don't look for more recordings from the self-described "middle-aged, middle-class white woman from the Midwest.''
"I enjoy retirement,'' she says. "I'm just chillin'.''
Hip-hop aficionados interested in receiving a copy of the tape may write Mrs. McElfresh at P.O. Box 2604, Covington, Ky. 41012-2604.--S.K.G.