How Music Can Improve a Child’s Reading Skills

Father Teaches Son to Play PianoWhen a child first begins to read, the event can be rewarding and exciting for the parent. However, it can also be stressful if the child finds reading difficult or doesn’t show much interest in the book’s subject. One solution to this problem involves music.

According to research at Northwestern University in Chicago, musical training can help improve a child’s reading ability. The team at Northwestern, led by Nina Kraus, a professor of Neurobiology and Physiology, found some interesting insights concerning the link between music and reading.

Link between rhythm and reading

In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2013, Professor Kraus contended that rhythm was an integral part of language. After measuring the brainwaves of more than 100 teenagers, she observed that the students who were poor readers also had significant difficulty tapping their finger to a beat.

The study offered confirmation that being able to follow a beat is an important part of both music and language. Based on their findings, Kraus suggested that training in music could very well help to improve reading skills.

Tying sounds and meaning together

In 2014, Kraus continued her research on the link between music and reading but turned the focus toward disadvantaged youth.

In one study, Kraus’ team gave music lessons for a year to a group of nine- and 10-year-olds from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and then tested their reading levels. The researchers found that the reading scores of the students who were given music lessons were stable, whereas the students who had not been given musical training saw a decline in scores.

In a separate study, Kraus and her team recorded the brainwaves of a group of teenage students from an impoverished area of Chicago, who had band or choir practice each day before school. They found that exposure to music enhanced the part of the brain that ties sounds and meaning together.

Given such findings, it might be a good idea to give your child some music lessons, whether or not he or she excels or struggles with reading. Apart from helping to make children well-rounded, music lessons may well help their language and reading skills as well. It could be a win-win situation for everyone.

 

Source: Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 207

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