Tag Archives: music and learning

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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Kindermusik Classes: Music and Social-Emotional Development

Kindermusik Classes: Music and Social-Emotional Development

Molia Dumbleton, M.A., M.A.

Heidi Gilman Bennett

(published by Kindermusik international)


Social-Emotional Learning: What is it and why does it matter?

Given the competitive energy around parenting these days, it’s a wonder some parents aren’t signing their preschoolers up for intensive “accelerated school-readiness classes” and SAT vocabulary camps. But no matter how brilliant – or over-scheduled – the child, there’s a reason

for the “pre-”. A preschooler is, quite simply, a pre-schooler until he or she is ready for school. And no matter how data-driven parents may become, most would still agree that beyond numbers, letters, colors, and such, there lies a harder-to-quantify but just-as-essential quality to school readiness.

“School-ready” is, of course, a complicated and weighted term. Scientists describe a school-ready child as having “the ability to experience, regulate, and express emotions; form close and secure personal relationships; explore the environment; and learn—all in the context of

family, community, and cultural expectations.”

It’s interesting to note that this definition doesn’t make mention of numbers, colors, or the alphabet. While it’s important that a child entering school have some basic skills and knowledge, researchers seem to agree that what a preschooler knows is far less important than

how he or she learns it. Only if a child is emotionally and socially equipped to manage

the demands of a school environment will he or she be able to benefit from the learning it

has to offer.

Seven Social-Emotional Competencies

Because social-emotional learning can seem less quantifiable than, say, counting or identifying colors, some researchers have suggested breaking the concept into seven more specific areas.


1. Confidence


What is it?

Confidence: A sense of control and mastery of one’s body, behavior and world; the child’s sense that he is more likely than not to succeed at what he undertakes, and that adults will be helpful.


How it works in a Kindermusik class

The inviting, child-centered atmosphere of a Kindermusik class, where children and parents are welcomed with a “Hello song” and guided through a themed series of activities, is built to foster confidence in every child. Lessons carefully balance predictability (which boosts confidence through repetition, familiarity, and mastery) with novelty (which boosts confidence through challenge and increasing competence), celebrating what children know and building upon it with new skills and experiences. Every learning style is recognized, and every level of participation—from playing an egg shaker along to music, to boisterously moving around the classroom independently, to “opting out” of an instrument play altogether and sitting quietly, instead, with a parent—is valued as an appropriate way for a child to absorb the moment, prepare to try new things, and make his or her own discoveries. In addition, research has specifically linked music and movement activities with the development of confidence in young children. While music alone can wield incredible power over state of mind, turning anxiety into calm, lethargy into energy, and distraction into focus, the best way to describe the incredible connection between movement and confidence is to quote a researcher who writes, quite simply, “The more they

move, the more they learn.”


What you can do at home

Break it down. You know your child—where he or she excels, where he or she is more likely to struggle or resist. Set your child up for the right balance of challenge and success by breaking larger, potentially overwhelming challenges into smaller, more manageable sections or

steps. Offer an appropriate amount of independence for the steps that will come easily; offer an appropriate amount of support during the steps that you expect might be more difficult.

Muzzle Ms. Fix-It. For a child to develop confidence, he or she must be allowed to problem-solve independently and successfully. This doesn’t mean you can’t guide, assist, or support (see “Break it down”) – but if the task is developmentally appropriate, allowing children to “get stuck” can be a good thing. Only then can they experience the pride and confidence that comes when they persist and arrive at their own solutions.

Loosen up! Sing, dance, rhyme, play, run, skip, twirl, crawl, wiggle, and bounce. (Yes, you.) Your child doesn’t have to participate in everything. Simply by modeling the freedom to move

your own body in a variety of ways, use your voice freely, and express your emotions creatively, you’ll be demonstrating that you are safe and supportive and that expression is prized and welcome – two essentials for the development of confidence.


2. Curiosity


What is it?

Curiosity: The sense that finding out about things is positive and leads to pleasure.


How it works in a Kindermusik class

When a child is offered an instrument and encouraged to explore it in whatever way he or she likes; when he or she is asked for ideas about how to make a scarf move in a “windy” or “bumpy” or “wiggly” way; when he or she listens carefully to find out how the sound of a baby

elephant is different from the sound of an adult elephant, that child learns that curiosity is not only valued, but quite simply good, that questions have a payoff, and that there are wonderful, unknown things in the world to see and experience and discover. Curiosity inevitably leads to learning. To learn something new, a child must not only encounter the kinds of items and experiences that cause him or her to ask what, why, how…but must also feel motivated to follow

a thread to the answers, have the proper encouragement, freedom, and materials to do so, and then also find the answers exciting, fulfilling, and worthy of the investigation. Curiosity and payoff are in hearty supply in the never-ending variations on movement, vocal play, pretend play, instrument exploration, and creative storytelling and interpretation in a Kindermusik class. Curiosity/query, creativity/investigation, back and forth: How might this sound? What if we try it this way? Can you think of some other ways we might do that? Now, what do you think this would look like? What sound might this make? What do you think will happen next? Sounds are added to stories; instruments are tapped on toes and elbows and ears; scarves are “flown” and “walked” and “dusted”. And so, curiosity and music are a natural pair. Research has shown that music instruments, for example, almost universally engage young children’s curiosity and

attention, prompting exploration, experimentation, and multi-sensory investigation of form and function.


What you can do at home

Mystery grab bag. Collect some mysterious items from around the house—things whose function might not be automatically clear, like a honeydripper, garlic press, eye pillow, binder clip, or monkey wrench. Put them in a bag or on a tray and investigate them with your child, one at a time. Make up creative functions for them. Do they make good instruments?

Memory lane. Dust off your shelf of old LPs, cassettes, or CDs and encourage your child to choose a couple. Look at the covers together, then play a song from one of them without letting

your child see which it is. Challenge your child to guess which album the song comes from, based on the sound of the music and the look of the cover art.

Project find-out. Keep a “find-out” list in the house somewhere. When a question arises (Do penguins make sounds? Can you still hear music underwater? Where does chocolate come from?), put it on the list. Then when you have some special activity time together, grab a question and set about finding the answer. Some may be quick internet video searches, while others might involve a field trip, a phone call, or a science experiment. (Your child is sure to get even more creative in his or her curiosities once it’s clear that the more esoteric the question, the more interesting the find-out!)


3. Intentionality


What is it?

Intentionality: The wish and capacity to have an impact, and to act upon that with persistence.


How it works in a Kindermusik class

Early signs of intentionality are in full view among children in the Our Time age range and are closely correlated with the burgeoning competence and autonomy of these young children.After all, toddlers never seem more joyful than when they have been, by their own choice and by their own efforts, effective. There are a variety of ways a child can show intentionality. Making a selection (for instance, selecting one instrument from a group) or expressing a preference (such as suggesting a way to move or

contributing a sound idea to a story or song) indicates a deliberate choice of one thing over others. Attending to a song or activity “all the way through” also shows intentionality, as a child must opt to disregard or delay other stimuli and impulses (a new skill, and still in development) in order to focus on the activity at hand.


What you can do at home

Sometimes intentionality seems like the last thing on an active toddler’s mind, as you follow his or her dotted path of 20-second fascinations, each rapidly investigated and discarded for the next. Other times, your child may “zoom in” on something so intensely that it’s hard to get his or her attention. Both are age-appropriate ways of interacting with the world and its stimuli, but as a child nears school age, he or she should become more able to engage with single activities for longer periods of time, persist through challenges, and demonstrate a longer view, longer attention span, and an ability to select, engage, and complete an activity.

Picky, picky, picky.

Allowing your child to choose from a handful of selections—as in what to eat, play, listen to, or

wear—helps him or her develop the ability to see the long view (in other words, If I choose this,

I will have to live with it), and feel more involved in the followthrough of that choice (be it

macaroni, hide-and-seek, Old MacDonald, or overalls).

Puzzle me. Puzzles can be a perfect exercise in intentionality. Each piece presents a challenge, and each challenge presents a choice: persist or give up. Giving up often comes with other attractive activity options – but a child that knows the satisfaction of selecting, persisting, and completing an activity (like a puzzle) will likely push through the challenge to reap those emotional rewards.

Hocus focus. You’ve almost surely heard some variation of the Kindermusik mantra: hearing is a sense, but listening is a skill, a deliberate act that requires intention and focus. Engaging in Focused Listening activities and exercises – both in and out of Kindermusik classes – is an intensive intentionality workout. Even for adults, it truly takes focus to shut out other, competing stimuli to focus solely on a sound or piece of music.


4. Self-Control


What is it?

Self-Control: The ability to modulate and control one’s own actions in age appropriate ways; a sense of inner control.


How it works in a Kindermusik class

While there is very little heavy-handed direction (sit there, play this, line up, etc.) in a  Kindermusik class, there are plenty of experiences that provide learning opportunities in the areas of self-control—namely sharing, taking turns, respecting classmates’ personal space, stopping and starting movements, putting things away when you’ve finished with them, etc.

You’re most likely to see physical and audio (rather than verbal) cues to let children (and parents) know what to expect and what’s expected of them. Rather than saying “Let’s all stand up”, for example, a Kindermusik educator may simply stand, gesturing that the class should join her. A “clean-up song”, rather than a verbal explanation, may be used to signal clean-up time. Children will listen for audio cues in a song to know when to stretch up high, for example, and when to crouch down low. Research demonstrates that these physical and audio cues are, in fact,

almost miraculously effective, in contrast to verbal requests and/or explanations.


What you can do at home

Cue audio/visual. Use familiar signals to let your child know that a transition from one activity to another is coming. Establish a special song to signal the approach of naptime, for example, or flicker the lights when it’s time to clean up.

Room for retreat. Providing a place where your child can go to “get away from it all” (to stave off or recover from a tantrum, for instance) gives him or her the opportunity to recognize his or her own patterns and signals and, accordingly, to develop self-knowledge and selfcontrol. (And no, it’s not too soon!) Music can be a powerful tool for relaxation and self-control, so consider equipping your child’s retreat space with a CD or tape player with easy buttons that he or she can control independently.

Share and share alike. Give your child lots of opportunities to practice sharing – with you, with siblings, with stuffed animals, anyone. For fun, try this: choose one thing (an instrument, for example, or a toy) and allow your child to choose another. Set a timer for one minute, then switch toys. Repeat.


5. Relatedness


What is it?

Relatedness: The ability to engage with others based on the sense of understanding and being understood by them.


How it works in a Kindermusik class

Studies show overwhelmingly that young children who participate in musical experiences and activities demonstrate increased levels of social participation—and, interestingly, longer social interactions as well. In addition, teachers who use musical cues to initiate transitions have been shown to experience decreased negative behaviors (such as teasing, taunting, and bullying) and increased positive behaviors (instances of cooperation, kindness, and empathy) in their class groups. Music activities that engage a group of children with music and movement

appear to have a great impact on children’s sense of “the other” and of “the group”, not to mention an increasing awareness of the emotions of others and an enhanced ability to  cooperate. Watch a group of young children holding hands in a circle or passing an instrument around the group, for example, and relatedness comes to center stage.


What you can do at home

Keep on keepin’ on.

According to research, young children who demonstrate relatedness in preschool settings tend to be children who have trusting relationships and secure attachments with familiar adults—so the things you’re already doing with your child at home (offering patience and comfort, teaching about feelings, empathy, and respect, etc.) are exactly what you should be doing to continue to foster this important skill.

Surprise, surprise.

Research overwhelmingly reveals that music activities and movement help build trust and compassion between children, their playmates, and their adult caregivers. Holding hands,

dancing, partnering, swaying, clapping together, playing instruments together, singing together—almost any “together” musical experience is bound to be a relatedness slam-dunk.

The no-share, no-pressure band. It’s clear that learning to share is a vital skill that preschoolers must learn in order to be successful – but sometimes, it’s okay not to share. For young children,

you can provide a relaxing, positive, and social music-making experience by providing each child with his or her own instrument and encouraging the group to enjoy playing music together without the emotional challenge of having to share or take turns.

Be a joiner! Connecting with your child one-on-one in a compassionate way that emphasizes kindness and respect is essential, but engaging in activities with larger groups and other adults and children is just as important. Try to add experiences to your child’s day that integrate big groups, small groups, people of ages and cultures other than your child’s, as well as new sounds, sights, animals, spectacles, etc. The “bigger” your child’s sphere of experience, the more universal his or her sense of relatedness will be able to become!


6. Capacity to Communicate


What is it?

Capacity to Communicate: The wish and ability to verbally exchange ideas, feelings, and  concepts with others.


How it works in a Kindermusik class

We are not born with a complete “kit” of communication tools. At first, as infants, we’re primarily able to communicate only our most basic needs (such as, “I’m hungry”). As we become more adept at manipulating external forces (such as parents), we also become more adept at specifying particular wants (such as, “Bring that toy here”) and emotions (such as, “I like seeing your face”). That capacity to communicate grows by leaps and bounds, however,

when we also begin to engage in it for its own sake—in other words, to communicate for pleasure, for connection, for fun. In a Kindermusik class, children are made, foremost, to feel secure, then encouraged to explore a variety of media for self expression. They learn—through songs, dances, instrument exploration, instrument play, and movement activities—that voices, bodies, and instruments are all tools they can use to communicate, and that there are subtleties in sound and movement that they can use to change the message they are trying to convey.


What you can do at home

Set the stage. Creating an environment that’s hospitable to communication and expression is the

very best and most important thing you can do, and the recipe for this environment is simple. Offer your child a feeling of emotional security. Place a high value on expression. Model communication, expressiveness, and open lack of judgment yourself. Then give your child full access to the “tools” of expression—not only instruments, art supplies, books, and music, but also conversation, adventures, and access to a you that has the time and freedom to move, dance, tell stories, and be outlandish!

Teach emotion words. As you’re teaching your child the words for colors, numbers, animals, trucks, dinosaurs, parts of the body, and what have you, be sure to include the words for a large number of varied emotions as well. Young children experience the same large range of emotions that adults do, but don’t often have access to vocabulary to describe and identify those feelings.

Paint that tune. Choose a couple songs from your CD collection or cue up a short MP3 playlist. Get out some crayons or paints and alongside your toddler, as you listen to the music, make some expressive art that represents how the music makes you feel. Use as many pieces of paper as you like, but at least one new one for each song.

Get in touch with your inner orchestra. Cue up a couple sound samples of a variety of instruments. (Search “instrument sound clips” on the Internet.) Engage your child, as he or she is able, in a discussion about which ones he or she likes best, which samples feel happy, sad, afraid, angry, sleepy, excited, etc. Then get up and move your bodies in a way that “matches” the instrument’s sound.


7. Cooperativeness


What is it?

Cooperativeness: The ability to balance one’s own needs with those of others in a group activity.


How it works in a Kindermusik class

“Children who are cooperative may imitate others and then join in, participate in small-group activities, begin to follow simple classroom rules, help put away toys or wipe a table, and offer help to another child.” Read the above, then witness a Kindermusik class, and you’ll agree that the Kindermusik classroom is fairly bursting with cooperative activity.

Cooperativeness makes for an interesting intersection of the other six social-emotional competence categories discussed. A cooperative child, for instance, can demonstrate self-control (take turns, for example), express relatedness (play a group game), and communicate (contribute ideas to an activity) in order to allow for an experience that is enjoyable for the entire class, and not just him or her. Though surely not every Kindermusik activity and lesson are orchestrated with 100% cooperation, research does reveal clearly that experiences with music make children better able to work and play successfully and in cooperation with others.


What you can do at home

Practice makes per-cussion. Give each child one shaker, drum, maraca, or other instrument. Begin playing a simple, steady, 3-beat rhythm (as in, shake-shake-shake (pause) shake-shake-shake (pause)). Ask the children to follow your lead, shaking or tapping their instruments in the same rhythm. Try a handful of other simple rhythms (for example, shake, (pause), shake, (pause)), always asking the children to follow your lead to try to play together.

Conditioned response. Using musical cues for certain behaviors— cleaning up, preparing for bed, etc.—has been revealed to be a startlingly effective way to generate cooperativeness among young children. While verbal requests for the same behaviors sometimes invite dawdling, negotiation, or refusal, musical cues generally do not. Try rolling a naptime riff, clean-up tune, or bedtime ditty into your routine.

The joy of ensemble. Nothing says cooperativeness like a musical marching band! Allow  children to make or select their own instruments, then set up a route, and create a rotating order so each child gets a turn to be the leader. Then strike up the band and get moving!


Pressed to define the look and feel of social-emotional development, you might find it difficult to quantify or even to describe – but you know it when you see it, and you certainly see it in a Kindermusik class. A child offering a toy to a peer who is crying; holding hands with a partner; moving, singing, or speaking expressively; or asking an adult for help. Children taking turns playing a drum; moving with scarves in whatever way makes them feel most like wind; dancing with parents, teachers, and classmates; hugging their teacher at the end of class. The amazing fact is that to researchers’ awe, music and movement experiences seem to tap positively into every domain for social and emotional development in toddlers. On the whole, young children who spend time singing, playing, and moving with other children find themselves better prepared to be confident and self-aware, build positive relationships with peers, and get the best out of the learning environments and opportunities that life will bring them.

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Why Children Should Learn Music


The following is from James Crocker’s blog on music and children, http://shapesounds.com/blog

There is a possibility you want your child to learn music because you have dreams of raising a classical virtuoso, an international rock star or a jazz legend. There are few shortcuts to such greatness; the route to Carnegie Hall is still ‘practice, practice, practice’, despite the glittering promises of TV talent shows. It is claimed that mastering anything -including music – takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. At the rate of one hour a day, that would take nearly 30 years! Unless your child is internally driven to make music (enjoying studying for hours alone, preferring practice to visiting friends and video games, etc) it is unlikely they will make a career from playing music. So, why bother?

Most parents know intuitively that learning to play music helps in other areas of education and personal development. Maybe you’ve read how music students are better at learning languages, or perhaps you played music at school and remember how it boosted your self-confidence? Scientists continue to gather mountains of evidence linking music-making with improvements in almost every aspect of life: language, reasoning, mathematics, creativity, problem solving, cultural awareness, health, fine-motor skills, self-discipline, teamwork, concentration, stress relief, memory, self-confidence, time management, patience, hand-eye coordination, and socialization. The question should be: why doesn’t everyone learn music?

Here’s some of the evidence:

A group of preschoolers received private piano keyboard lessons and singing lessons. A second group received private computer lessons. Those children who received piano/keyboard training performed 34 percent higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability than those who received computer training.

~Neurological Research, February 28, 1997

A ten-year study, tracking more than 25,000 students, shows that music-making improves test scores. Regardless of socioeconomic background, music-making students get higher marks in standardized tests than those who had no music involvement. The test scores studied were not only standardized tests, such as the SAT, but also in reading proficiency exams.

~Dr. James Catterall, UCLA, 1997

Second-grade students were given four months of piano keyboard training, as well as time using newly designed math software. The group scored over 27 percent higher on proportional math and fractions tests than children who used only the math software.

                        ~Neurological Research March, 1999

Secondary students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs).

~Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. January 1998

Middle school and high school students who participated in instrumental music scored significantly higher than their non-band peers in standardized tests. University studies conducted in Georgia and Texas found significant correlations between the number of years of instrumental music instruction and academic achievement in math, science and language arts.

~University of Sarasota Study, Jeffrey Lynn Kluball;
East Texas State University Study, Daryl Erick Trent

College-age musicians are emotionally healthier than their non-musician counterparts. A study conducted at the University of Texas looked at 362 students who were in their first semester of college. They were given three tests, measuring performance anxiety, emotional concerns and alcohol related problems. In addition to having fewer battles with the bottle, researchers also noted that the college-aged music students seemed to have surer footing when facing tests.

~Houston Chronicle, January 11, 1998

A McGill University study found that pattern recognition and mental representation scores improved significantly for students given piano instruction over a three-year period. They also found that self-esteem and musical skills measures improved for the students given piano instruction.

~Dr. Eugenia Costa-Giomi, Phoenix, AZ, April, 1998

According to statistics compiled by the National Data Resource Center, students who can be classified as “disruptive” (based on factors such as frequent skipping of classes, times in trouble, in-school suspensions, disciplinary reasons given, arrests, and drop-outs) total 12.14 percent of the total school population. In contrast, only 8.08 percent of students involved in music classes meet the same criteria as “disruptive.”

~Based on data from the NELS:88 (National Education Longitudinal Study), second follow-up, 1992.

Data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 showed that music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students, and that the percentage of music participants receiving As, As/Bs, and Bs was higher than the percentage of non-participants receiving those grades.

~National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988
First Follow-Up (1990),US Department of Education.

Young children with developed rhythm skills perform better academically in early school years. Findings of a recent study showed that there was a significant difference in the academic achievement levels of students classified according to rhythmic competency. Students who were achieving at academic expectation scored high on all rhythmic tasks, while many of those who scored lower on the rhythmic test achieved below academic expectation.

~”The Relationship between Rhythmic Competency and Academic Performance in First Grade Children,” University of Central Florida, Debby Mitchell

A University of California (Irvine) study showed that after eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers showed a 46% boost in their spatial reasoning IQ.

~Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Ky and Wright, “Music and Spatial Task Performance: A Causal Relationship,” University of California, Irvine, 1994

James Crocker is a musician, teacher and dad sharing ideas on how to introduce the language of music to young kids.  He is also a member of CMN.

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The Link Between Music and Reading

In classes, we have been focusing on the link between music, language, learning, and reading… Here is a wonderful overview of a new study out of Northwestern University on the subject!

“Music and reading ‘linked in brain’

(UKPA) – Oct 16, 2011

Musical ability is biologically linked to literacy, a study has found.

Children who performed well in reading tests were also good at discerning rhythm and tone, say scientists.

They also did better than average in tests of verbal memory.

Music skill accounted for 38% of the variation in reading ability between children.

Literacy and musical aptitude shared a common origin in the brain, the study showed.

The results may help to explain previous research suggesting that musical training can improve word skills.

“Both musical ability and literacy correlated with enhanced electrical signals within the auditory brainstem,” said study leader Dr Nina Kraus, from Northwestern University in the US. “These results add weight to the argument that music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms and suggests a mechanism for the improvements in literacy seen with musical training.”

A total of 42 children aged eight to 13 took part in the research. Of these, eight were classified as “good readers” and 21 as “poor readers”.

The children were tested on their ability to read and recognise words. Other tests looked at how well they could distinguish between different rhythms and tones. Electrical measurements showed the brains of poor readers were less able to respond to regular, rhythmic sounds than good readers.

Musical aptitude correlated with reading performance. When rhythm and tone responses were measured separately, rhythm had the greatest effect. But the link with reading was greatest when the scientists measured both kinds of musical response together.”


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The Music in Your Head- How Did it Get There?

Music education is a vital part of a child’s life. Research shows that our abilities to sing in tune, move to a steady beat and yes, hear music in our heads, are all formed by the time we are 8- or 9-years old. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to sing or dance or play the piano after the third grade, but the learning windows for musical aptitudes do begin to close.

Do you ever hear a song in your head over and over again? Can you imagine not being able to hear music this way? Audiation, the ability to hear music when no musical sound is present, is an acquired skill. Similar to thinking thoughts without talking aloud, when you audiate, you internalize and “think” music. To practice audiation with your child, leave off the last word of a favorite song. Stop completely. Observe and listen to your child. What is the reaction? When you play this game with familiar songs, you are engaging your child’s ability to think and “speak” with you musically.

Were you lucky enough to have wonderful parents who sang to you all the time? Did you sing endless rounds of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain” when you went on vacation? Repetition is a critical part of your child’s growth and development between the ages of birth and seven. Repetition aids in strengthening the neural pathways in the brain. So when your child wants you to “Read it again, Mommy!” or “Play that song again, Daddy!”, do it!!!

Babies are innately musical. They respond to music and sound in utero. Carla Hannaford, author of Awakening the Child Heart, tells us that hearing and language begin in utero and become the first window to the material world as the embryo physically reacts to sound 23 days after conception. Sound becomes the organizer of our physical structure and later, via the mother’s coherent heart rhythm, gives us the patterns on which to form a coherent understanding of patterns within our world.

People often ask, “What do you do with an infant in a music class?” Babies can be soothed with music. Brain development is stimulated by music. A Kindermusik Village class, for example, provides a rich environment of music, movement, language and touch for babies newborn to 18 months. This combination of music and movement stimulates the Vestibular System, the fluid in the brain. According to Dr. Alfred Tomatis, without a fully developed Vestibular System that allows us verticality and balance, language and learning become difficult. Language development begins with movement and is supported with interactive communication and music. Hannaford points out that early music education, including the interplay of music, movement and sound, is key to developing language, math, relational and learning skills, as well as creativity.

Toddlers love to clap and pat to the steady beat of favorite tunes. Steady beat is the unchanging, underlying beat that pulses through every top-10 tune on the radio. Different from rhythm – a combination of various short and long sounds – steady beat is what we tap our toes, pencils and imaginary drums to. For many toddlers, steady beat is an innate ability nurtured with lots of opportunity to practice. For others, it is a skill that can be learned through practice. The ability to keep a steady beat is a gift that we all want our children to have. A study showed 100% of first string professional football players can move their bodies to a steady beat. Moving to a steady beat develops a sense of timing and the ability to organize and coordinate movements like walking, dribbling a basketball, driving and using scissors. Not true for 2nd string. Kindermusik classes provide many opportunities for toddlers to play instruments and move to a steady beat and parents are educated about ways to keep music alive at home.

Preschoolers are exploding with ideas and questions. Creative music and movement provide an outlet for the imaginary characters that live inside a child. 3- and 4-year olds flourish in an environment where there is music, movement and an opportunity for them to contribute ideas. In a Kindermusik Imagine That! class, a child can explore voice and ideas, add instruments to songs and rhymes, act out enticing characters and grow socially while interacting with peers.

For a kindergarten or first grade child, reading readiness is an important issue. I often imagine how it would have been to have the language of music and the English language concurrently integrated into my life: learning to read and write music while learning to read and write language.

Kindermusik provides a whole child approach to music education. Children move and sing, play musical games, learn about music in other cultures, talk about and listen to the instruments of the orchestra, develop their discriminative listening skills, build self-esteem through group interaction and music making, begin to read and write basic musical notation and much more.

I often get calls from eager parents, ready to spend gobs of money on private music lessons for their 3-, 4- and 5-year olds. I first ask them, how are the children’s fine motor skills? Are they reading? How big are their hands? Are they ready to practice at least 20-30 minutes each day? By the time children complete a 2-year Kindermusik class, they have played a pre-keyboard instrument, a simple string instrument and a wind instrument. They are eager to pursue private lessons and have more staying power!

When you choose a music program, make sure it is compatible with you and your child. Be prepared to be an active participant and supporter of your child’s music experience. It could be the best investment you ever make.

Music turns kids on. So turn it up!

Thanks to Stephanie Bartis, M.M., for sharing this great article, orginally written for the Art of Well Being.

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