Carol Huffman has many passions, but none so strong as her passion for music and teaching children.

Carol Huffman has many passions, but none so strong as her passion for music and teaching children.

Thanks to that passion, Huffman, a Canal Winchester area resident, is one of three recipients of a Columbus Symphony Orchestra Music Educator Award.

Huffman was chosen for her work in teaching early literacy with the Reach Out and Read program through Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"She has been the inspiration for our whole music curriculum," said Claudia Barrett, health literacy coordinator for Children's Hospital.

Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit organization that promotes literacy by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading.

As part of her award, the Columbus Symphony will give her $2,500, which Huffman said she intends to donate to Reach Out and Read.

"That seems the natural place for it to go," she said.

Huffman started volunteering for the program in 2004, after retiring in 2001 from 35 years of teaching at Pickerington Junior High School.

"When I stopped teaching in 2001, I knew I would miss the children," she said.

Equipped with her autoharp, Huffman goes to pediatric clinics in Whitehall and Grove City to sing to young children and teach them how to read in the process.

"She has every single person in the waiting area up and around and marching," Barrett said. "It became very popular with parents."

The children learn their ABCs, colors and shapes through songs and nursery rhymes that Huffman performs while volunteering with the program.

"Music is a vital piece of early literacy development," Barrett said. "It's just a natural fit."

Huffman said her music lessons also calm the nerves of the children and parents while they wait at the clinic.

"That's what we want," she said. "We want to alleviate their nerves. We want them to enjoy going to the doctor."

Huffman said music is the key to learning. Any lesson can be put to music to enhance the learning experience, she said.

"There are songs for everything," she said. "Music touches every discipline you could possibly imagine."

As an example, she said she would work with junior high math, science and social studies teachers to add themes to her own teachings.

"The kids were learning and singing," she added.

Born in 1959, Huffman said she became interested in music when she was 3 years old after singing "Way Up High in the Cherry Tree" for a radio station. Her mother gave private piano lessons and was her daughter's "guiding force."

"I guess she thought I was going to be the next Shirley Temple or something," Huffman added.

When she's not teaching young children how to read through song, she's in her backyard greenhouse that she lovingly calls her "garten haus."

But music permeates even to her botanical hobby. Above the entrance of the greenhouse is her favorite quote, attributed to William Shakespeare: "If music be the food of love, play on."