Kids love music. So what better way to improve their vocabulary than with their favorite songs? That’s exactly the goal of Rhymes With Reason, a literacy and music education program that helps children improve their vocabulary and linguistic skills with hip-hop and pop music.
Owner Austin Martin founded Rhymes With Reason after looking back on his time as a young elementary and middle school student, where he struggled because of his lack of interest. He says he did what was required of him, but never more than that.
However, Martin had an immense interest in music, especially hip-hop and the genre’s lyricism. Music became an extra subject to him, and he would spend hours researching his favorite artists and even printing out lyrics. Through hip-hop, Martin learned more than just words; he also learned about history and culture.
“Through this process, I started to soak up a ton of linguistic knowledge and I learned how to use a metaphor effectively,” Martin explained.
Eventually, during high school, Martin became a great student and credited a lot of his academic success to the vocabulary and linguistic knowledge he built while listening to hip-hop. After graduating, Martin attended Brown University where he developed the idea for Rhymes With Reason.
“I wanted to create something out of my experience, where I could help kids who struggle in school through music; to show how school and music are connected,” Martin said.
During undergrad, Martin found that out of the top 100 words on the SAT, 67 of those words were also in hip-hop songs, from artists like Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole. Soon after making this discovery, Martin built an archive of vocabulary words found in hip hop that are prerequisites for standardized testing and reading development.
“I just found this enormous overlap between academic vocabulary and the music that kids are choosing to listen to every single day,” Martin emphasized.
Rhymes With Reason has worked with over 200 different schools across the U.S. and recently partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, providing every child in their after-school program access to Rhymes with Reason’s content.
Martin wants parents, family members, teachers, and principals to consider using his literacy program to help their children and students learn in an effective and fun way. He also wants to highlight the importance of Rhymes With Reason for Black students because it was made with them in mind.
Martin is currently in graduate school at Harvard University’s School of Education in an effort to better Rhymes With Reason. Martin has also been featured in Forbes 30 under 30 in 2020 and the International Literacy Association’s 30 under 30 in 2021. He was also awarded funds from the Harvard Social Innovation Fellowship this year.
Check out Rhymes with Reason’s playlists to see how you can help a child learn.