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Music to my ears: Exploring the music/reading connection

By Susan Hayes 

Federal Programs Coordinator 

Hartselle City Schools  


When you teach your little one to sing a song, you are teaching your little one to distinguish between different sounds and to listen for patterns in language. Nina Kraus, director of the auditory neuroscience laboratory at Northwestern University, asserts that though students still need to learn how to connect those different sounds to their letter representations, music exposure helps language and reading make more sense as students learn more and improve their skills. 

Aniruddh D. Patel, of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, takes it a step further. He claims the parts of the brain that learn to listen for the differences in chords and tones and harmonies are some of the same parts of the brain that distinguish how words are combined in sentences to make meaning. From his research, Patel also asserts that music does not appeal to just a few areas of the brain but to large areas of each side of the brain. This activation of those large areas strengthens them, and that strengthening increases the brain’s ability to complete all sorts of tasks unrelated to music.  

The brain does not compartmentalize its math skills from its reading skills from its day-to-day problemsolving skills. When areas of the brain are strengthened, they can be called upon for any task. 

Hartselle City Schools offers music at every grade level for the reasons outlined above and for the joy and beauty music brings to students’ lives. Playing an instrument as part of a band or singing as part of a chorus is akin to other team accomplishments that seek to perfect a final product. Learning to work with a team to reach a goal is a life skill. 

So the next time you’re driving down the road, and your little one wants to sing a little song with you, chime in! The experience will warm your heart, but it will also build that ever-growing brain!