Promoting Language & Literacy Through Music











Promoting Language & Literacy Through Music

Do you remember singing nursery rhymes and simple songs from childhood? If the first part of a familiar melody and song text is given, most of us will finish singing the song.  Often as we hum these melodies, we think of other songs we learned during our early school years, and we realize that we can still sing many of these from memory.  We remember such songs as “Itsy Bitsy Spider“ or “Hokey Pokey” and how we learn our ABC's through the “ABC Song”. The use of familiar text, predictability, patterned text and repetition also encourage us to read.  When we read and sing “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed” we can quickly predict the pattern leading to "No more monkeys jumping on the bed !".




MUSIC !  How can children learn or live without it? The similarities between literacy acquisition and musical development are indeed many. The successful acquisition of reading and writing skills in early childhood depends on a solid background in oral language development. What better way to gain knowledge and confidence in oral language than through music? 


It appears that the first three to five years of a child's life are critical for optimal brain development for acquiring music and linguistic abilities.  Let's consider some of the  important gifts and links to developing this music and language literacy.


To help you start, have are five factors to consider.



Music develops the brain


Music connects the functions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain so that they work together and make learning quick and easy. It helps children stay alert. Howard Gardner's research on Multiple Intelligences supports this idea. Gardner's Musical-Rhythmic learners are sensitive to sounds and are very much aware of tone, pitch and timbre in the learning of music and language. Opportunities to cooperate in singing games, action songs, and movement to music are the early childhood active learning precursors to reading, thinking, problem-solving, and memory.



Music develops listening skills


Listening is necessary to hear same and different letters of our alphabet, words and  sounds in our environment.  Listening skills are key in singing and expressive movement, and later in language, reading and writing.  Thus the sooner we encourage listening skills, the more opportunities children will have to develop and apply them in their linguistic acquisition.




Music strengthens aural discrimination


The quality of aural discrimination experiences will affect children's listening, communication, and reading skills.  Researches show that infants who are sung to and talked to a lot develop greater phonemic awareness and later develop larger vocabularies.




Music helps children speak clearly and pay attention


When children sing nursery rhymes and pat steady beat, they speak more clearly. They   also sing and read more "in tune," and enunciate more effectively. Studies on the steady beat factor suggest that students who demonstrate beat-competence and beat-independence increase their awareness of rhyming patterns and alliteration in other areas of reading and writing. They also perform well in other areas of the academic curriculum




Music is FUN! - and fundamental for all young children


Besides providing enjoyment, music plays an important role in their language and literacy development.  It makes many valuable connections to our children's language capabilities, memory, creative thinking and emerging academic success.  Music's gifts abound around us.  Let's use them to make significant differences in our children.




Article written by Mr Thomas Tan

Master Trainer, Seimpi School of Music

Lecturer, Seimpi Academy


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