Music Education and Reading

As I was writing last week's article about music education for infants (and children in general), I was struck by how it relates to my other job as a Reading Specialist.  I have spent the past 3 weeks preparing a program for students who do not yet have the foundational skills that they need to be successful in a reading program.  The program that we are about to start will help our students to distinguish between words and syllables and to change sounds within words, such as changing "cat" to "bat".  In this program, children will clap, chant, and play percussion instruments to the rhythm of the words.

Along with this, the reading certificate program that I am finishing has recently had me thinking about prosody in reading; reading with good tone, phrasing, emphasis, etc.  Basically, reading like you are reading in the same way as you would have a conversation. Prosody is sometimes called "the music of the language".

As I thought about these components of early reading education, a clear connection between the skills that children learn in music education and pre-reading and reading skills began to come to light. 

  • In teaching children how to identify syllables, we show them to put their hand under their chin while they say a word and count how many times their chin drops; once per syllable.  In music education, children are taught to be very aware of the movement of specific parts of their bodies; hand position on a drumstick or bow, mouth position on a mouthpiece, etc.
  • Once children can identify syllables, we tap them out in rhythm, to help them see the difference between syllables and words.  In music, students develop a solid sense of rhythm.
  • We teach children how to hear all of the sounds in a word, instead of seeing the word as one, unchangeable piece.  (Children who can't do this often have a hard time with vowel sounds and blends; they simply can't hear those sounds in the middle.)  In music, children are taught to listen for slight differences in sounds.
  • We teach children how to read with good tone, phrasing and emphasis.  As this prosody is known as "the music of the language" this relationship pretty well sums it all up.  This is when it all comes together.

As I think about all of these aspects, I'm thinking (mostly seriously) that all children should have music education.  The benefits are so far-reaching.  At the very least, all children should be provided with high-quality early education that includes a music and movement component.  Just my two cents!

Misty