By Margarita Nahapetyan
Music lessons that involve increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal and practical skills, can significantly improve children's cognitive performance in reading skills, reports a new study.
According to the authors Joseph M. Piro and Camilo Ortiz from Long Island University, USA, the results of this study can help to clarify the role of music classes on cognition and figure out how the potential of music, in general, can enhance school performance in language and literacy. The researchers studied children in 2 elementary schools in the United States - one of the schools has repeatedly trained kids in music, and the other one did not. The aim was to investigate and analyze the hypothesis that children who received keyboard instruction as a part of a music program that becomes increasingly complex over successive years, would demonstrate much better vocabulary and performance on verbal tasks, compared to the kids who did not have keyboard instructions.
A quasi-experimental design has been used by the authors when they were selecting the 2nd grade children from schools that were located in the same geographic vicinity and with same demographic characteristics. Everything possible was done so there was nothing different between the 2 groups of kids except for their music experience. The children in the intervention school took piano lessons formally for a period of three consecutive years as a part of a comprehensive instructional intervention program, and youngsters in the control school have never received any formal musical education on any musical instrument, and had never been taught music at school or in private. Both schools followed comprehensive balanced literacy programs that integrate skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening.
For the study, all the kids were individually tested in order to evaluate their reading skills at the beginning and at the end of a standard 10-month school year, using the Structure of Intellect (SOI) measure. The results revealed that the group of children that were taking music lessons, had much better verbal sequencing scores and significantly richer vocabulary, compared to the group that has never learned music. This study and its finding, the researchers wrote in the Long Island University release, provide evidence that supports the increasingly common practice when teachers and educators are including a variety of different approaches, including music as well, in their teaching methods, in order to improve reading skills in children.
Several studies that have been conducted in previous years, have also shown positive associations between music education in children and increased abilities in non-musical - linguistic, mathematical, and spatial - skills in young people. Joseph M. Piro and Camilo Ortiz said that there are similar moments in the way different people interpret music and language and because neural reaction to music is a widely spread system within the human brain, "it would not be unreasonable to expect that some processing networks for music and language behaviours, specifically reading, located in both hemispheres of the brain, would overlap."
The study is published in the journal Psychology of Music, published by SAGE.