By: Brian Ruiz.
Is it possible that notes and chords can improve your child’s reading skills? While you may not be able to play your kids a Beethoven CD and have them come out reading Shakespeare, there is some evidence that children who learn music do become better readers more quickly than children who do not. Besides being a source of delight to many young children, music can help them academically as well.
Music and Learning
One of the first songs many young children learn has them singing all the letters of the alphabet in order, notes Dylan Glanzer of Parties by Miss Dylan and Company. There’s something about using a catchy tune and rhythm that makes otherwise arduous memorization into something fun and relatively simple. Glanzer adds that we use music to teach children basic body parts in songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” as well as gross and fine motor skills in many childhood action songs.
As children grow older, they may be taught songs to help them remember multiplication tables, the 50 United States, or even more complex concepts such as those taught in Schoolhouse Rock. There’s no question that music can aid in memorization. But memorization is not the same as read-ing. Can learning to read music actually help kids read stories and more?
Studies on Music and Reading
Recent studies do in fact suggest that teaching children to play music also improves their reading skills. One study focused on two groups of six young children; one group was given Suzuki music lessons and the other group was not taught any music. At the end of the study, the children who received the music instruction also performed better in literacy, memory tasks, and mathematics. The results of the study were published in Brain in 2006.
In another study, published in Psychology of Music, one group of second grade children was taught to play the keyboard as part of their schooling. A second group did not have this training. At the end of the year, the students who learned to play the keyboard had markedly higher scores in tasks associated with reading than the other group did.
The reasons why this occurs are still theoretical. According to Joseph M. Piro and Camilo Ortiz, who conducted the study with the second graders, some of the skills associated with learning to play music probably occur in the same brain areas as those associated with learning to read. Abilities strengthened here will transfer to any activity that utilizes them.
Other Benefits of Music
Aside from its use as a memory aid, teaching music to children can help them in other areas as well. Brigid Finucane of the Merit School of Music in Chicago, suggests that the focus and diligence required to learn musical skills will help children in other areas of their lives, such as learning to be more responsible and self-disciplined. Learning music also gives kids a good sense of self-esteem and teaches them teamwork as they learn to play in-struments together.
Scott Cross, Educator Development Manager for Kindermusik International, explains that even the basic music skills that toddlers can learn will help them understand concepts such as starting and stopping. He goes on to say that learning to read musical notes from left to right is similar to reading words from left to right. Learning to count music actually introduces young children to early math concepts and how they can use numbers to help them.
The benefits of music instruction don’t end there. Long after they’ve learned to read, children and adults who have studied music will use the skills, focus, and pure enjoyment they’ve gained for the rest of their lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brian Ruiz, a father of two girls, is a freelance blogger who enjoys writing about child development and education. If you want to help your kids read better through learning music, Brian recommends enrolling in a master in music education program, so you can pass your skills on to your kids.
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