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The Impact of Music on Language & Early Literacy:
A Research Summary In Support of Kindermusik’s ABC Music & Me

The Impact of Music on Language & Early Literacy:
A Research Summary In Support of Kindermusik’s ABC Music & Me Introduction Early childhood classroom teachers believe in the power of music to engage children. What scientifically based research supports the use of music and musical instruction to build early literacy skills? This research summary answers that question, providing support to educators who wish to integrate music and musical instruction into their early language and literacy programs in schools. This research summary reviews high-quality experimental studies conducted in classrooms with young children receiving music education, plus relevant brain research that focuses on the impact of musical instruction on the brain. The impact of music and musical instruction on early language and literacy development for young children is examined in the following areas: ReadingComprehensionandVerbalMemory ListeningSkills Vocabulary,includingforEnglishLanguageLearners PhonologicalandPhonemicAwareness WritingandPrintAwareness ImpactonChildrenwithDisabilities FamilyInvolvement The research summarized below provides strong support for including music and musical instruction in the earlychildhoodclassroom.Importantly,thisrecommendationismadenotjustforthevalueofthemusical experience itself, but also because of the impact music and musical instruction can have on young children’s development of language and early literacy. Music Instruction & Reading Scores Linked Readingcomprehensionisseenas“theessenceofreading”(Durkin,1993)andthedesiredoutcomeof reading instruction, including the focus of assessment on standardized reading tests starting in third grade. Comprehensionisdefinedas“intentionalthinkingduringwhichmeaningisconstructedthroughinteractions betweentextandreader”(Harris&Hodges,1995). Anumberofresearchstudieshavefoundthatchildrenwhoparticipateinmusicinstructiontendtoscorehigher on tests of reading comprehension than children who do not participate in musical instruction. • Ameta-analysisof25correlationalstudies,someinvolvingsamplesizesofover500,000students, founda“strongandreliableassociation”betweenmusicinstructionandscoresontestsofreading comprehension(Butzlaff,2000). Astudyof4,739elementaryandmiddleschoolstudentsinfourregionsoftheUnitedStatesrevealed astrongrelationshipbetweenelementary(third-orfourth-grade)students’academicachievementas measuredbytestscoresandtheirparticipationinhigh-qualitymusicprograms(Johnson&Memmott, 2006). While these studies are appealing, one cannot conclude from correlational studies alone that the music instruction was the cause of the gains in reading scores. To answer that question, we turn to the experimental studies that involved pre- and post-testing of young children receiving classroom music education. Theauthorsofaclassicstudy(Hurwitzetal,1975)askedwhethermusictrainingimprovedreading performance in first grade children. The experimental group received musical instruction including listening to folk songs with an emphasis the listening for melodic and rhythmic elements. The control group consisted ofchildrenwhowerematchedinage,IQ,andsocioeconomicstatusandwhoreceivednospecialtreatment. Aftertraining,themusicgroupexhibitedsignificantlyhigherreadingscoresthandidthecontrolgroup,scoring inthe88thpercentileversusthe72ndpercentile.Moreover,continuedmusicaltrainingwasbeneficial;afteran additional year of musical training, the experimental group’s reading comprehension scores were still superior to the control group’s scores.

These findings provide initial support for the view that musicinstructionfacilitates...
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