Making Music Helps Preschoolers Learn To Read

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Preschool music activities can foster the development of reading and writing skills in children, according to a press release from the University of Buffalo Graduate School of Education:

“The two-year study examined the impact of ‘musically trained’ early childhood teachers on the music and emergent reading and writing achievements of preschool children.

In the study, 165 preschoolers participated in music activities taught by 11 teachers who had received intensive training in musicianship skill and teaching strategies for guiding young children’s music development.

The results showed that music instruction significantly increased children’s oral vocabulary and grammatic understanding, after controlling for students’ age and prior knowledge, and was especially effective for children who began with lower literacy skills.

‘First, we found that the musicianship of the early childhood teachers improved as did their ability to guide music activities in ways that enhanced student music development,’ said study co-author Maria Runfola, UB associate professor of learning and instruction. ‘In addition, the researchers found statistically significant links with two tests of early literacy development: oral vocabulary and grammatical understanding.’

The researchers say the results provide the first link between music and literacy when music instruction is provided by ‘generalists’—regular classroom teachers [who have received special training].

‘Music is one way that children can learn rhythm and rhyme of text, be exposed to new vocabulary and learn to discriminate a variety of sounds,’ says Runfola. This new study clearly shows the association between music and traits that can make it easier for preschoolers to learn language skills, she said.

Parents should take note of these results and encourage their preschoolers to listen to a variety of music from recordings and especially in live venues, according to Runfola.  Moreover, parents should interact with children musically, in the same way they interact with them using spoken language.  At a minimum, they should chant nursery rhymes and dance with them to music on radio, TV and recordings.” (Read more here.)

Interesting! But I don’t like all those “shoulds” in the last paragraph. Singing, dancing, and making music is fun! Let’s keep it that way. If children are learning (and of course they always are), all the better.

That’s my first reaction, but I wonder if I’m discounting the importance of music. I would certainly say that parents “should” read to their children, for example . . . What do you think?

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3 Responses to “Making Music Helps Preschoolers Learn To Read”

  1. Yep – the fun is in the journey – music making should be a lifetime of fun. Instead, it has for far too long been hijacked by academia as a mysterious and laborious endeavor. Go grab a sax or guitar and start learning – you and your kids won’t be sorry!

  2. Should we continue to let ourselves get trapped by such insignificant matter as to whether we should or shouldn’t use “should”?
    To effectively and lovingly look out for others, *some* things in life REQUIRE should. E.g.:
    1.) you should wash your hands.
    2.) you should vote
    3.) you should speak up
    The article itself is beautifully argued. It’s worthy of its own space. It’s worthy of appreciation—on its own.
    We SHOULD appreciate people who take time out of their lives to bring thoughtful things to us.
    Vincent Wright

  3. Gene Geist says:

    You should see the success music therapists have with children with special needs (especially autism) as well as typically developing children.

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