Tag Archives: early childhood music

Study Finds Link Between Music and Preschoolers Reading Readiness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA fantastic new study, right from our own back yard!

Results support continued funding of music education, researchers say
By: Charles Anzalone

Release Date: January 23, 2013
photo of Maria Runfola

Maria Runfola
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“Administrators need to better understand the importance of the arts to children’s development. We hope this research will help music educators and childhood educators support their requests for music time for the youngest of our students.”
Maria Runfola, Associate Professor of Learning And Instruction

BUFFALO, N.Y. – New research from the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education shows a link between preschool music activities and the development of reading and writing skills in children.

Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and published in the Bulletin for the Council of Research in Music 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 study results were mixed for music achievement, however. Students’ median scores were similar for the experimental and control groups on use of singing voice. Students’ tonal pattern achievement in the experimental group was significantly higher but no significant differences were found in children’s rhythm-pattern achievement, the study found.

The researchers say the results provide the first link between music and literacy when music instruction is provided by “generalists” – regular classroom teachers in pre-kindergarten and daycare centers.

Other researchers have shown pre-kindergarten students can make gains in emergent literacy and other developmental domains when they are taught by music specialists who have received formal training in music education.

“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.

National educational organizations such as the National Reading Association recommend “playful experiences” as ways to make these pre-kindergarten children more ready to read, Runfola pointed out. This new study clearly shows the association between music and traits that can make it easier for preschoolers to learn language skills, she said.

The study grew from Runfola and co-lead researcher Elisabeth Etopio’s beliefs in the importance of early childhood music development and that early childhood specialists could be taught to guide music learning in ways that also increased their students’ development in literacy. Etopio is visiting assistant professor in UB’s Graduate School of Education.

The study pointed out that school districts increasingly are focused on test scores in math and literacy, often at the expense of appropriate music experiences for students.

“More and more, music educators are being asked to address other domains of student learning in addition to music-making and listening,” the report stated.

Runfola is concerned that music programs in New York State are being cut due to Race to the Top requirements and the focus on “Common Core Standards.”

“Administrators need to better understand the importance of the arts to children’s development,” Runfola said. “We hope this research will help music educators and childhood educators support their requests for music time for the youngest of our students. Children need daily appropriate music activity to stimulate their neural activity to develop tonal and rhythm audiation that in turn appears to help their emergent literacy skill.”

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.

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Young Child Year Two- Dulcimer Day!


Our final year students are adding string instrument playing to their lessons, and the first day back they made their instrument- the two string mountain dulcimer! Using musical reasoning, within minutes of finishing their instruments they were playing portions of a song that they learned on glockenspiel last year… What a great example of the ‘of course I can!’ that we instill over the course of our whole program!

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The Amazing Effects of Music on Brain Development

image.axdFrom Kindermusik International’s official blog site Minds on Music; have you visited yet? http://www.kindermusik.com/mindsonmusic

Recently, Miss Analiisa blogged about the healing power of music. She cited an article, “Better Minds Through Music,” written by Michael Shasberger, Adams Professor of Music and Worship. Because this is such great information, I’d like to build on her blog with further research I conducted, and tell you more about the fascinating, life-impacting research being done on music and the brain. Your children and mine can benefit immeasurably from putting into practice what researchers are discovering about the relationship between early exposure to music training and cognitive development.

Michael Shasberger’s excellent article was written primarily to fight the elimination of music programs from budget-strained elementary schools. He writes that study after study has demonstrated the profoundly significant impact music makes on children’s intellectual and social development. Academic performance and social behavior are positively impacted:

“Students involved in arts in the curriculum are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, three times more likely to be elected to class office, four time more likely to participate in math and science fair, three times more likely to win an award for school attendance and four times more likely to win and award for writing an essay or poems. Young artists, as compared with their peers, are likely to attend music, art and dance classes nearly three times as frequently; participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently; read for pleasure nearly twice as often; and perform community service more than four times as often. The benefits of exposing children to music and the arts are indisputable.

Music’s power to heal is also well-documented. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has written books and produced an award-winning documentary, “The Music Instinct: Science and Song.” His research explores music’s power to touch our emotions, which has impact on our psychological and physiological systems. Findings show that music can alter and heal parts of the brain. For example people with Parkinson’s disease have been able to walk better because of listening to a rhythm soundtrack. And some stroke patients with aphasia (lack of speech) have been able to regain speech by beginning with singing what they were trying to say.

We know of music’s restorative properties, but how does music impact the brain development of our children? Researcher Sheila Woodward of USC discovered that fetuses in the womb respond to music at 17-19 weeks gestation. Michael Shasberger’s research suggests that music integrates both sides of the developing brain. Playing notes is a very sequential left-brain process. Seeing overall patterns, integrating the expression of the whole piece and dealing with rhythmic patterns are right brain skills. Math skills are required in timing and counting and fine motor skills must put it all together in the playing of the instrument. Music provides a total brain workout, Strasberg concludes.

The College Board that runs SAT testing backs this up. Music students post a consistent 10 % advantage in math and verbal scores. Dr. Frances Rauscher, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh states that musical training enhances abstract thinking and spatial-temporal ability even more than computer training. He concludes; “Music has an obvious impact on the brain and should be supported and encouraged in early childhood education.”

In conclusion, providing a music-rich environment early on can have a very positive impact on our children. Here are a few practical suggestions to integrate music into your kids’ daily lives:

Expose your kids to high quality music. Borrow CDs from the library. Listen to your Kindermusik CDs. Find the classical radio stations in your area. Purchase an inexpensive CD player for your child to enjoy his or her “own” music. Pair special occasions with special songs.

Enroll your kids in Kindermusik classes. Take them to concerts. There are many free ones in the summer and at libraries. Check the schedule for kids’ concerts at Benaroya Hall. Check the regular concert schedule too. Kids enjoy more kinds of music than you might think!

Make music at home. Invest in a musical instrument set to play rhythms, march and sing along to. Sign your children up for music lessons. My kids loved piano lessons.

-by Donna Detweiler who has a new appreciation for her husband’s habit of turning classical music on every night at dinner time.

Special thanks to Donna Detweiler and Analiisa Reichlin for allowing us to share such an informative post from the Studio 3 Music Blog. Analiisa is Director of Studio 3 Music in Seattle, Washington, the world’s largest Kindermusik program.

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