Tag Archives: music research

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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Why Children Should Learn Music

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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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