Music has been shown to enhance our ability to subconsciously process large amounts of information at an accelerated speed (Blakemore and Frith, 2000). However, one’s ability to do so depends greatly on their prior exposure to listening and playing music. Musical experiences can further enhance processing information such as language, which consequently impacts reading skills.
Studies have been conducted to show the relation of musical exposure to children’s cognitive development. One study found, that children at the age of eight who had only 8 weeks of musical training differed from controls in their cortical event related potentials (ERPs) than children who had received no musical training (Moreno and Besson, 2006).
A similar study measured the brain activity of children from ages 4 to 6 who were given music training 25 minutes for 7 weeks. Those children who had received musical training had increased cognitive processing compared to those who did not have musical training (Flohr et al., 2000).
Musical training also helps with language development. Studies have proven that having musical skills predicts the ability to differentiate pronunciation in a second language (Slevc and Miyake, 2006) as well as improve the reading abilities of children in their first language (Anvari et al., 2002).
Further studies examined kindergarten children who received 4 months of music instruction for 30 minutes once per week. The instruction included active music making, understanding beats, rhythm, pitch as well as the association of sounds with symbols. The children who received the music instruction showed significantly greater gains in phonemic awareness when compared to the control group.
Overall, the results of the studies imply that learning and playing music plays a major role in developing improved cognitive functioning, language skills, speech, and literacy. The earlier the exposure to active music participation, and the greater the length of participation, the greater the impact on developing skills.
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Anvari S.H., Trainor L.J., Woodside J. and Levy B.Z. (2002). Relations among musical skills, phonological processing, and early reading ability in preschool children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 83, 111-130.
Blakemore, S.J. & Frith, U. (2000) The implications of recent developments in neuroscience for research on teaching and learning. London: Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.
Flohr, J.W., Miller, D.C., deBeus, R. (2000) EEG studies with young children, Music Educators Journal, 87(2), 28-32.
Hallem, S. (2012). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people, International Journal of, 28(3)
Moreno, S. and Besson, M. (2006) Musical training and language-related brain electrical activity in children. Psychophysiology, 43, 287-291