Music and Reading Skills
As the young child matures, so does language, and the vocabulary expands as reading becomes a natural extension of language. We sometimes find the paradox of a child who ostensibly cannot read words but who can “read” music and respond to familiar words and melodies. Music is an excellent way to explore words and the concept of print. As “children listen and sing, they begin to realize that the print has meaning, and that there are similarities within the print, and the meaning (Fisher and McDonald, 2001).
Feierabend, Saunders, Getnick, Holahan (1998) report that there is “evidence to suggest that listening to songs repeatedly over an extended period of time contributes to an integration in long-term memory of words and music among preschool children” (p. 358). Researchers theorize that perhaps it is the multisensory approach—through movement, eyes, ears, and body coordination— coupled with the improvement in self-concept that makes the difference. It is the whole child who learns! Both reading and making music call for concentration, memory, and understanding of abstract concepts, and both are skills children prize and know are highly valued. It is the wise teacher who capitalizes on opportunities to spark reading.
To begin, we can set nursery rhymes or simple poetry to music, or place them in simple chants or choral verse. Country songs, ballads, pop tunes, and even carefully selected commercials are legitimate when reading enjoyment and skill are the goal. Words have meanings; words open doors; words have power; words are personal; words are humorous; words tell us what we are. Words are ribbons of the future, and words set to music lead us there.
From nursery rhymes and simple poems we might progress to jingles, fingerplays, short prose stories, chant stories, jump-rope chants, and even haiku, which might use music as accompaniment. Or we might select a favorite tune of the children and fit original lines to that tune. It is rhythm, fluency, and attention-holding activity we seek to build. Whatever the ability of the child, participation is guaranteed. It is the rare adult who can resist the combinations described, and sharing enjoyment with children brings an added dimension to our participation. The following two chants focus on things children like to eat and children’s birthdays. Change the words to include what your children think is best of all and insert the age of the children in your classroom into “Me.”
© ______ 2005, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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