As schools face tighter budgets and less funding, many of them cut music, art, and physical education classes. Sadly, students suffer because these classes offer benefits beyond learning how to sing, draw, and play sports. Music especially supports students’ literacy skills, and parents and educators should make sure students have an opportunity to make music each day.
1. Music Enhances Literacy-Related Language Skills
Studies show that the more children engage in music practice, the more their literacy-related language skills improve. Specifically, research shows that music training positively impacts phonological awareness skills and rhyming skills. According to Susan Hallam of the Institute of Education at the University of London, one reason that music enhances literacy skills is that “speech and music have a number of shared processing systems. Musical experiences which enhance processing can therefore impact on the perception of language which in turn impacts on learning to read…. Eight-year-old children with just eight weeks of musical training showed improvement in perceptual cognition compared with controls.”
Additionally, music becomes a critical component of children’s ability to develop phonological awareness, which significantly contributes to their ability to learn to read successfully. Hallam also points out that learning to play an instrument enhances kids’ abilities to remember words; in fact, “musically trained participants remembered 17% more verbal information than those without musical training.” That’s why kids who struggle with reading comprehension perform better after being trained in rhythmical performance.
Quality literacy programs emphasize the development of auditory processes, which music programs also stress. The auditory elements of literacy include phoneme awareness, distinguishing auditory elements, and speech signals, among others. Kids with phoneme awareness understand how sounds form words and are more successful in making sense of the sounds they hear.
Musically, they become aware of pitches and how they form musical lines. Distinguishing auditory elements is a critical component of effective communication because it helps use context to distinguish between homophones during conversations. Overall, speech signals and auditory signals help kids gain meaning from verbal communication and music.
2. Choosing the Right Instrument for Your Child
Because music enhances literacy skills, parents should encourage kids to learn to play an instrument at an early age. But, the key is to help your children find the right instrument so they develop a love of music rather than being forced to play a particular instrument. In his PBS article, the Dean of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, Dr. Robert Cutietta, reminds parents to consider a child’s age when choosing an instrument. Kids younger than six do better with the piano and violin because these instruments build a musical foundation that can lead to other instruments at later ages.
As kids age and gain more physical strength, they can play brass instruments, woodwinds, and larger string instruments. Younger kids often do well with a clarinet because it is a smaller instrument that is more manageable for them, while older kids often enjoy playing the saxophone.
If your school is suffering a budget crisis, or if you simply want your children to be able to practice more often to enhance their literacy skills, consider purchasing a clarinet or saxophone. Keep in mind that achieving success with a clarinet or saxophone requires choosing the right mouthpiece. The wrong mouthpiece affects your child’s ability to produce quality sound or produce a sound at all. For more information, check out the buying guide from Music & Arts.
3. How to Interest Your Kids in Playing an Instrument
But, playing an instrument only enhances your kids’ literacy skills when they actually pick up their instrument and practice and play it. Once you’ve chosen the best instrument for him, encourage him to practice and play it. You may ask to hear what he’s learning, ask him to teach you how to play, or simply set aside time for him to play for you and then praise him. It’s also helpful to hire a music teacher who will instruct your child privately and inspire him to play often.
Playing an instrument is a key to developing literacy skills. Help your children choose the right one and then keep them interested in playing it to improve their literacy and musical abilities. Purchase an instrument and hire a music teacher to enhance their skills even more.
By Jenny Wise, SpecialHomeEducator.com