• Joanne Jacobs

Music develops 'reading brain'

Learning music -- playing an instrument or singing -- can help children learn to read, writes Holly Korbey on Edutopia. It develops the brain, say neuroscientists.


In a 2016 study in Germany, 20 weeks of singing and drumming three times a week helped immigrant preschoolers developed "phonological awareness," researchers concluded.

"Babies exposed to rudimentary melodies show improved ability to detect subtle shifts in the rhythms of language," writes Korbey about another study.


Music students develop working memory and self-control and learn to focus their attention, concludes another study. That improved students' performance in English Language Arts and math.


The Harmony Project, which offers five hours a week of instrument instruction for children in dangerous Los Angeles neighborhoods, started as a violence-prevention project 20 years ago, writes Korbey. But teachers saw "students' grades were going up -- not a little, but a lot."


A study released in March 2022 Harmony students and non-Harmony students in five high-poverty elementary schools in the city. "Harmony Project students vastly outperformed the nonmusician control group on standardized tests, with a 17-point gain in math and a 26-point gain in English," writes Korbey. "Students who started with the lowest achievement levels gained the most: an average of 33 points in math and 39 points in English."


Deborah Farmer Kris also writes about how music training can support literacy and build cognitive skills on KQED's MindShift.


Listening to classical music -- the so-called "Mozart effect" -- doesn't make kids smarter, wrote Nikhil Swaminathan in Scientific American back in 2007.


It became a fad in the '90s after a small study on college students by psychologist Frances Rauscher was publicized. (Classical music improved their paper-folding skills.)


"There is no compelling evidence that children who listen to classical music are going to have any improvement in cognitive abilities," said Rauscher, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh. It's a "myth."


Listening to music is passive, she says. Learning to play an instrument can improve academic skills, such as reading.


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