Reading is magical. I recently observed a young mom reading a book with her five year old. It was a beautiful, tender moment as her child sounded out a few of the words. The mother swelled with pride, misty-eyed knowing that her child received one of life’s greatest gifts – the ability to read.
So, how do I help my child achieve this great milestone? There are so many things a parent can do to further this skill – engage in conversation, create a language rich environment, read aloud to your child, and MUSIC! Yes! Music.
In 1997, Congress commissioned the National Reading Panel, a group of fourteen experts, to review the existing research on reading instruction. Based on their analysis of thousands of studies, the panel determined that an effective approach to teaching beginning reading includes instruction in five areas (also known as the National Reading Panel’s Big Five). Multiple research (for you scholars, see bibliography below) shows that music can enhance each of these areas.
1. Phonemic Awareness – the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in words. Several recent studies show increase phonemic & phonological awareness when teachers use music in the classroom. Because songs manipulate sounds especially through lyrics and rhyme, there is a direct connection to literacy. Check out the song Tell Me All The Sounds, by Liz Buchanan. Also see Jack Hartmann’s Let’s Make Words.The classic favorite Apples and Bananas is another fun one for building phonemic awareness! Click here our list of songs that build Phonemic Awareness!
2. Alphabetic Principle – the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language. How did you learn your letters? Most learn The Alphabet Song to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.We first learn the letters, next we learn the sounds, then we begin to blend them together. Here are some songs to help learning letters and letter sounds: Rappin the ABC’s and Who Knows the Alphabet Sounds. Check out Alphabet Boogie by Kiboomu, Jack Hartmann’s Meet the Letters of the Alphabetor The Alphabet Song by Marla Lewis. Click here our list of songs about the alphabet and phonics!
3. Fluency – the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression. – The innate rhythm and tambour of music can be directly connected to the rhythm and prosody of reading fluency. Songs with a strong rhythmic beat are great, also use songs that encourage movement, clapping or playing rhythm instruments. Check out Tapping, Shaking Music Making by Rachel Rambach, I Clap, I Shout from the new Dandelion CD by Growing Sound. Try Gotta Get the Beat from Pam Donkin, or Liz Buchanan’s Animal Hand-Clap Rap. Click here our list of Action & Movement Songs!
4. Vocabulary – the ability to recognize and understand words in print and in speech. Enhancing vocabulary through music is a proven strategy. Lyrics matter, and selecting songs with educational value make a difference in the development of academic vocabulary. So, playing that Beyonce song on the radio may not build the vocabulary you want for your child. Songs for Teaching has songs for nearly every subject. Check out our front page for suggestions in almost any category. Bilingual Music is great for building vocabulary for English Language Learners. Check out the songs on Francisco Herrera’s Canta y Juega. Build vocabulary in English and Mandarin with Early Mandarin Adventures! Click here to see songs for building English vocabulary!
5. Comprehension – the ability to understand what has been read or heard. – Helping children with metacognition (thinking about thinking), making connections with text, visualization and synthesizing are all key comprehension strategies. Engaging the learner is key to comprehension. Music’s ability to engage learners is powerful. Secondly, engaging in dialogue about songs can help facilitate comprehension skills. Silly songs can be a fun way of engaging and talking about the lyrics can build comprehension skills. Try A Rhino Likes Popcorn by Jason Anderson; or Mrs. Music’s collection Best Silly Songs Ever Song written specifically for comprehension can also build skills such as Context Clues by Matilda Gilbert or Reading Strategy Songs by Miles & Tanny McGregor (fyi — Tanny McGregor is one of our sources in the Bibliography below)! Songs about books can be a good tool. Check out Cool Books by Recess! or Storybook Friends by Intelli-Tunes
In Closing, music can be a fun way to nurture literacy! Teachers, play music in the classroom or during transitions, integrate strategic songs into your lesson plans to yield fantastic results, and value the music teacher in your school — they are helping your students! Parents, sing songs with your child, clap and dance along, recite nursery rhymes, or make a drum set out of your kitchen pots and pans. Playing children’s music in the car or at home is fun AND educational for your child.
You can find great educational music at www.SongsforTeaching.com. Stream educational music with our new App — Get over 500 FREE songs on the Songs for Teaching Radio Android APP (Don’t worry Apple users, it is coming soon to the IOS Market). Also coming soon is our new Halloween Songs App!
Degé, F., & Schwarzer, G. (2011, June 20). The Effect of a Music Program on Phonological Awareness in Preschoolers.National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00124/full
Gromko, J. (2005). The Effect of Music Instruction on Phonemic Awareness in Beginning Readers. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3598679?uid=3739552&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104688614063
Hansen, D., Bernstorf, E. D., & Stuber, G. M. (2004). The Music and Literacy Connection. Reston, Va.: MENC.
Li, X., & Brand, M. (2009). Effectiveness of Music on Vocabulary Acquisition, Language Usage, and Meaning for Mainland Chinese ESL Learners.krpb.pbworks. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://krpb.pbworks.com/f/music-esl.pdf.
McGregor, Tanny. (2014, April). Music and Literacy Strategies Using Comprehension Connections. General Music Today, Vol. 27, No. 3, 6-9.
“National Reading Panel.” National Reading Panel. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.
Peterson, E. (2012, July 17). Education Closet – Integrating Music and Literacy. Retrieved from http://educationcloset.com/2012/07/17/integrating-music-and-literacy/
Standley, Jayne M. (2008, Nov.). Does Music Instruction Help Children Learn to Read? Evidence of a Mega-Analysis. Applications of Research in Music Education, Vol. 27, No. 1, 17-32
Tarbert, K. (2012). Learning Literacy through Music. Oneota Reading Journal. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://oneotareadingjournal.com/2012/learning-literacy-through-music/