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How music helps with children’s literacy skills

The Importance of Literacy for Children

Literacy is one of the most important skills we develop in our early childhood years. It’s not just about being able to read in school, either. Learning how to read gives children the skills they need to learn and comprehend complex ideas that help shape them into individuals. Being able to read and write gives them a means of self-expression, which is essential for self-esteem. It also expands their world as they learn about different people, places, and perspectives without ever having to leave where they are.

Developing literacy isn’t a one-way avenue—it takes a multi-faceted approach. Parents need to read to children and use unfamiliar words with them in order to help develop their vocabulary. Teachers need to provide a wide array of lessons, including phonics, handwriting, vocabulary, grammar, and creative reading/writing. Telling stories, listening to the radio, and learning how to navigate the library and conduct research also develop higher-level skills as children age.

Literacy and Music

One literacy tool parents may not consider is the power of music. Music can be used in many ways to develop a child’s reading abilities. It starts with the alphabet. How do you remember learning your letters? Was it through a song? That’s not a coincidence. Our brains have an uncanny ability to remember rhythm, melodies, and rhymes. Teaching children the alphabet through the phenomenon of song helps them learn these building blocks of language much quicker and with less difficulty.

Music can help children improve their literacy skills way beyond the alphabet song. According to a 2014 study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, children who took music lessons for two years became better at processing language, in addition to improving their musical skills. Researchers think that the shared elements between language and music—pitch, timing, and timbre—activate the same parts of the brain, so when you exercise one, it helps improve the other. Furthermore, playing music with others improves higher-level skills including collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Therefore, adding music lessons to your child’s curriculum can improve literacy as well as other academic skills crucial for 21st century success.

Adding Music to Your Child’s Life

If your child’s school offers choir or music groups at lunchtime or after school, encouraging them to sign up is one of the easiest ways to get them involved in music. However, it’s important to find other ways to engage your child in musical activity so they enjoy it, rather than solely view it as an academic obligation. Provide your child with their own area in the home where they can practice their instrument and escape when they’re feeling overwhelmed by other responsibilities.

Other ways to add music to your child’s education include:

  • Sing together!
  • Incorporate music into day-to-day chores and activities.
  • Play classical music when it’s time to read or study.
  • Attend concerts and musicals as a family.
  • Put on some high-tempo music when playing sports or exercising.
  • Keep instruments around the house.
  • Sign them up for private music lessons.

Literacy isn’t just about earning A’s in English class. Learning how to read, write, and interpret language gives children the skills to explore and grow in this world. Adding music into your child’s education works similar parts of the brain that are used when reading or writing. By including music in your child’s learning, you improve their abilities to accept, process, and retain information through the power of language.

(Thanks to Charles Carpenter for this piece)

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