While some parents rely on Cocomelon – a show which can be as overstimulating as a drug to a child and can result in both behavioral and attention disorders – there are independent children’s media producers and content creators who are reviving worthwhile children’s screen time. Ever heard of Ms. Rachel?
Creator of Songs for Littles, Ms. Rachel started out as a school teacher putting her passion for productive education into her YouTube project during the pandemic and has since achieved massive success to the tune of 1.12M subscribers and videos with view counts as high as 72M. So what exactly is it about Ms. Rachel that has taken the children’s YouTube community by storm and is allowing her to overtake the Cocomelon empire?
How the First Words and Talking Time Got Started
Educator and award-winning songwriter Rachel Griffin Accurso – a.k.a. Ms. Rachel – uses her master's in music education from New York University and the skills she honed through her second master's degree program for Early Childhood Education to create engaging digital media for children based in speech development and early intervention techniques.
She runs her YouTube show, Songs for Littles, with her husband, Aron Accurso, who voices and operates all of the puppets, including main characters Herbie and George. As a composer and pianist with multiple decades of work in theater – spanning Broadway to regional/summer stock theaters – and children’s music on shows like Sesame Street, Aron serves as Ms. Rachel’s creative partner.
"For a long time, I’ve wanted to make free music education videos for little ones who don’t have access to that. Then when the pandemic hit, I saw other needs being unmet due to children being home from school, such as preschool videos and speech practice videos," Ms. Rachel told Buzzfeed writer Loryn Brantz, who had been struggling to find worthwhile online content for her own daughter.
Once Brantz found Ms. Rachel’s Songs for Littles, she was “thrilled” to find screen time that she didn’t have to feel guilty about because the “videos were super engaging, fun, and well done.”
In addition, she praised how Ms. Rachel is a real, physical person on the screen who “speaks slowly and clearly, and even includes close-ups to show exactly how her mouth is moving,” a pertinent point for Brantz, who was also juggling speech therapy for her daughter’s development.
Parents Adore Ms. Rachel as the Cocomelon Antidote
Brantz isn’t alone. Many parents online have been singing the praises of Ms. Rachel, whose videos they believe have radically transformed their children’s behavior. One mother who came forward, Sierra, claimed her son was suffering from speech delay after having been exposed far too long to Cocomelon’s lack of dialogue. When Sierra cut the cartoon out of her son’s most tender developmental years and instead started showing her son Ms. Rachel’s YouTube videos, Sierra’s son not only started saying more words but also stopped having tantrums.
Another mother shared, “When I cut out Cocomelon and put on Ms. Rachel, he started bursting out with words. He’s not even two yet, so of course these aren’t clear words, but to me as a mother, I knew what he was trying to say. He started saying ‘oh, oh, knock, knock, mumma, dadda.’”
Cocomelon’s catchy nursery rhymes are enticing to young children, but they don’t prompt proper speech development. This is why Ms. Rachel’s content is a particularly wise swap for Cocomelon content, since babies and infants actually learn much of their own speech skills by observing lip reading, a factor which scientists have found is just as important as being able to hear language.
If a child is unable to read lips, whether that’s because the videos they are watching do not include mouth movements or if it’s because mouths are being obstructed by face masks, their pediatric speech and language development may be delayed.
Songs for Littles Are Scientifically Sound
When observing Ms. Rachel’s video as an adult onlooker, a few key aspects stand out beyond the fact that her Songs for Littles aren’t just animated, hyper-stimulating musical videos like Cocomelon. As mentioned, Ms. Rachel puts an emphasis on speech training by giving close-up movements of her mouth that in turn make it easier for babies and toddlers to copy.
Ms. Rachel also poses questions to her toddler audiences, asking things like “Can you say this?” or “Can you do this?” therefore expanding the amount of participation that a young viewer has while engaging in screen time. She then cleverly encourages participation by giving verbal praises like “good job.”
“I was actually looking for videos like ours for my son, and when I couldn’t find them, I realized, ‘Oh, I have to make them!’” said Ms. Rachel in the Buzzfeed interview. "I saw the benefits of music classes and simple songs to my son’s development, but I knew these classes can be really expensive! So I figured I’d make some on YouTube for everyone could participate in." [sic]
Ms. Rachel’s YouTube channel has earned her an alleged net worth of roughly $10M and some sources suggest that her Songs for Littles channel brings in between $27.9K and $445.6K based on ad revenue from such high view counts. Despite overwhelming fame, Ms. Rachel has maintained a humble online persona, sharing in response to her success: “It’s been so incredible and beyond anything we imagined. So many emails from parents have brought me to tears! I can’t think of anything more rewarding than making children smile and helping them grow and learn.”
No matter what her true amount of wealth is from her YouTube channel and social media pages, the sheer volume of views on Ms. Rachel’s Songs for Littles shows the viability of alternative, scientifically sound children’s media.
Ms. Rachel’s Songs for Littles has become a household name for parents who use YouTube as their young children’s screen time of choice. Not only are her videos educational from the standpoint of learning proper speech development and mitigating developmental delays before they’re able to set in – no thanks to “Cocainemelon” – but parents can also benefit from the tips and tricks that Ms. Rachel provides for integrating language development and nursery rhymes into day-to-day life. Called a “household hero,” it’s no wonder that Ms. Rachel has seen unimaginable success on YouTube for promoting speech improvement and a notably less addictive screen time alternative.
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