Learning music in the early years can help children learn to read
Music and language
Neurologists have found that music and language share a processing network in the brain. Evolutionary anthropologists believe that humans developed the capacity to process music and rhythm first, and that this allowed the development of language.
Babies respond to sounds, rhythm and melody before they begin to learn language. They respond to music long before they understand words, and they mimic speech in the same way they mimic music. The early speech patterns of a young child follow the rhythmic and repetitive sound patterns found in music.
Music and reading
Speech is the basis of reading, but children must first be able to tell speech from other sounds. Music helps them to do this. Neurologically, the same processing network is shared by music and speech.
In the end, reading is the ability to connect visual symbols with sounds. Learning to read music measurably enhances this skill, especially when the symbols are colourful and easy to follow. Research has shown a clear connection between learning to read music and reading comprehension.
What should parents do?
Talking and singing to babies – even pre-natal babies – helps create a parental bond, and helps babies learn to differentiate between speech and other sounds. Their auditory network will lay down synaptic paths that will prepare them for growing linguistic skills.
Introducing toddlers to music classes, particularly those that encourage singing and activities, will help build musical skills that lay the ground for reading.
For pre-schoolers, beginning to learn to read as well as play music pays huge dividends in advancing reading skills. The songs and rhymes they learn and enjoy will have an impact. Courses and classes led by qualified teachers and developed by educational psychologists will give a child a significant reading boost.
Learning music early makes reading easier
Children should be taught to read musical notation and symbols as well as enjoying participation and improvisation. Associating symbols with sounds is central in the process of learning to read. The building of music reading skills should, like all good education, be taught in an ascending series.
Equipping children with these skills and experience makes them ready, when they are grown enough and have developed the fine motor skills, to move on to a traditional musical instrument. Children who can already read music and have an understanding of the processes of music have a significant advantage when taking up an instrument.