There is much research to link music and language; subsequently this effect of music upon language impacts upon literacy development. Below is a little of the evidence I have gathered which demonstrates the positive effects which music can have upon language and literacy development. If you find this of interest buy a copy of my book ‘Sound Before Symbol’
Brewer and Campbell (1991) state that movement and rhythm stimulate the frontal lobes of the brain and enrich language and motor development.
A study on children who were identified as having reading difficulties was conducted by Douglas and Willatts in 1994. They implemented a music programme for these children which was designed to help the children’s auditory, visual and motor skills. The results of the investigation indicated that a link exists between musical ability and reading ability and that the training in music skills led to an improvement in reading.
Standley and Hughes in 1997 reported that “A programme of musical activities specifically designed to incorporate the skills required for literacy would seem even more advantageous” – (than musical activities only).
D’Agrosa (2008) writes in ‘General Music Today’ and makes connections between teaching music and teaching reading. She says that listening and speaking are pre-reading skills and ones which can be practised through music. She also draws parallels between the conventions of reading music and text and proposes that making connections between the two enhances both.
Patel’s book ‘Music, Language and the Brain’ (2008) argues that music and language share deep and critical connections. When we play or listen to music many parts of the brain are activated.
The more the brain is stimulated the more connections are made. This is especially true when children are young. If we cease to use the connections we have in the brain then they die and cannot be regenerated. We can however, make greater use of the connections we do have!! Despair not!
There is also much evidence to support the fact that the ‘early years’ ie up to age 8 are the most crucial for learning. According to Dryden and Vos (1994)
“50% of a person’s ability to learn is developed in the first four years of life and another 30% is developed by the eighth birthday.”
The ‘early years’ are the formative years on which the rest of life is constructed. It is important that parents and educators invest time and resources to maximise the potential of our young children to live full and productive lives.
“80% of a child’s language development is embedded by the age of five” Rosenthal (1997) This would indicate that this time in a child’s life is of vital importance to their future ability with language. Musical activities in the early years can help to enhance language development.
According to Goddard (2002) “Music is one of life’s earliest natural teachers”. Many of the skills that children require for reading can be developed through nursery rhymes, songs and movement to music. These skills include language comprehension, spatial orientation, rhythm and sound differentiation, to name but a few.
My own experience has demonstrated that there is a myriad of skills to be developed through specially designed musical activities such as those at ‘Sounds and Symbols’.