The role of music in facilitating language skills contributes to the development of reading skills. An early study where music instruction was specifically designed to develop auditory, visual and motor skills in 7-8 year old students over a period of 6 months, found that the mean reading comprehension scores of the intervention group increased while those of the control group did not (Douglas and Willatts, 1994). Similarly, Gardiner et al. (1996) provided children with seven months of Kodaly training alongside visual arts instruction. Their reading scores were compared with controls and were found to have shown greater improvement. 9 Phonological awareness is linked to early reading skills in 4-5 year old children (Anvari et al., 2002) and moderate relationships have been found between tonal memory and reading age (Barwick et al., 1989), although finding the main and subsidiary beats in a musical selection has not been found to be a significant predictor of reading in 3rd and 4th grade students (Chamberlain, 2003). Several studies have found no difference in reading between children receiving musical training and controls (e.g. Lu, 1986; Montgomery, 1997; Bowles, 2003; Kemmerer, 2003), although Butzlaff (2000) in a meta-analysis of 24 studies found a reliable relationship. While overall, the research shows a positive impact of musical engagement on reading, differences may be explained by the nature of the children’s prior and current musical experiences and their already developed reading skills. If language skills are well developed already, musical activity may need to focus on reading musical notation for transfer benefits to occur in relation to reading. There may also be other factors which need to be taken into account. For instance, Piro and Ortiz (2009) focused on the way that learning the piano might impact on the development of vocabulary and verbal sequencing in second grade children. 46 children who had studied piano for 3 consecutive years participated as part of an intervention programme, while 57 children acted as controls. At the end of the study, the music learning group had significantly better vocabulary and verbal sequencing scores. However, they had already been playing the piano for two years but with no differences in reading between their skills and those of the control group. The authors suggested a number of reasons for this: because it takes a long time for effects to be felt; because the age of tuition is important; or because the summer holidays prior to testing may have lowered initial their scores. There may also have been changes in the nature of the tuition and the development of fluency in reading music which impacted on transfer. Overall, there do seem to be benefits for engaging in musical activities in relation to reading beyond those associated with language development but our understanding of these processes is currently limited.

Some studies have focused on children who are experiencing difficulties with reading. Nicholson (1972) studied students aged between 6- 8 categorised as slow learners. After music training the experimental group exhibited significantly higher reading scores scoring in the 88th percentile versus the 72 percentile. After an additional year of musical training the reading scores of the experimental group were still superior to the control group’s scores. Movsesian (1967) found similar results with students in grades 1, 2, and 3. 10 Rhythmic performance seems to be an important factor in reading development. Atterbury (1985) found that reading-disabled children aged 7-9 could discriminate rhythm patterns as well as controls but were poorer in rhythm performance and tonal memory than normalachieving readers. Long (2007) found that very brief training (10 minutes each week for 6 weeks) in stamping, clapping and chanting in time to a piece of music while following simple musical notation had a considerable impact on reading comprehension in children experiencing difficulties in reading. There are also indications from a range of sources that rhythmic training may help children experiencing dyslexia (Thomson, 1993; Overy, 2000, 2003). Overy (2003) found that children with dyslexia have difficulty with rhythmic skills (not pitch) and that tuition focusing on rhythm had a positive effect on both phonological and spelling skills in addition to musical abilities.

One way in which music instruction may help reading in addition to those relating to more general perception, timing and language skills is that it increases verbal memory. Chan et al. (1998) showed that learning to play a musical instrument enhanced the ability to remember words. Adult musicians had enlarged left cranial temporal regions of the brain, the area involved in processing heard information. Those participants in the study with musical training could remember 17% more verbal information that those without musical training. Ho et al. (2003) supported these findings in a study of 90 6-15 year old boys. Those with music training had significantly better verbal learning and retention abilities, further, the longer the duration of music training the better the verbal memory. A follow up study concluded that the effect was causal. There were neuro-anatomical changes in the brains of children who were engaged in making music.

Much less attention has been paid to the influence of active engagement with music on writing than reading. An exception was a study where children from economically disadvantaged homes participated in instruction which focused on the concepts of print, singing activities and writing, The children in the experimental group showed enhanced print concepts and pre-writing skills (Standley and Hughes, 1997). Register (2001) replicated this work with a larger sample of 50 children. Results again showed significant gains for the music-enhanced instruction in writing skills and print awareness.

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