Curious Parents

Playing Music Makes Kids Better Readers

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Remember all those classic songs that taught you about numbers, letters, and words? Well, the latest science has shown that beyond simply memorizing lyrics, music itself can help kids learn to read thanks to a concept called "neurophysiological distinction."

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Smart Music

Music has long been touted for both the emotional and physical responses it inspires in humans. Schools incorporate music classes early because of their positive impact on the learning process. For generations, playing music has been associated with better performance on IQ tests, better moods and levels of concentration, and learning advantages in the classroom, and scientists are continually discovering more about the relationship between music and the brain.

One aspect of that relationship is "neurophysiological distinction" — that is, the brain's response to certain sounds vs. others. Learning and engaging in music can cause the brain to respond to sounds people may only hear unconsciously. For children, this type of "neurophysiological distinction" can improve reading ability, which leads to better academic performance.

Listening is Good, Playing is Better

While spending time listening to music is great, actively engaging in music such as learning to play an instrument or singing with a chorus dramatically increases the benefits to your brain. A study by Northwestern University's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, showed that even among engaged music students, higher attendance and class participation led to improved neural processing.

The implications of these studies and others are especially important in a time where arts and education funding are often sources of debate. Despite what the pundits may say, educators and families alike can take matters into their own hands and support their children in music lessons. And contrary to the long-held belief that classical music provides more benefits than other types of music, the Northwestern study and others shows that genre doesn't really matter. So whether your kid prefers Bach, Bieber, or Black Sabbath, it's all good for their brains.

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