Chapter 36: Reading and Music

A, B, C … Do, Re, Me!

(Click for the Complete Online Parent Reading Guide)

According to an article published by NewsWeek, “The Surprising Connection Between Rhythm and Reading,” scientists have confirmed “what poets have known all along”: There is a strong link between “language, learning and music.” Citing a study conducted by the Language Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, the article states that the rhythm training that goes along with learning to play a musical instrument increases the brain’s “neural response to speech.” Musical training, the article concludes, may help kids who are struggling with reading “maintain focus and grasp meaning more easily.”

What does this mean for your child? It means that if he is struggling in school, learning how to play a musical instrument may just be his ticket to improved reading.

Add a little music

Musical training does not have to be complicated or expensive to be helpful to your child. While professional music lessons would be ideal, there are many other ways to bring the helpful rhythms of music into your child’s life. Here are a few ideas:

  • Let him march in the band! – Many schools recognize the importance of musical training. If your child’s school has a band program, sign him up! Most school band programs offer free or low-cost instruments for kids to learn on. Be sure to let him pick the musical instrument that appeals to him the most. Nothing inspires a kid to keep at a project like being allowed to follow his own interests.
  • Check out the programs at church – If you already belong to a church and regular attendance is an important part of your family’s life, see if the church has musical programs designed for children. Many churches do, ranging from children’s choirs to hand-bell orchestras. It’s a great way to emphasis the importance of religious training and help your child with his reading all at the same time.
  • Watch the want ads – Want ads in your local paper and posted on online sites like Craigslist are a great place to look for secondhand instruments. You might be able to find band instruments if your child’s school doesn’t provide them, or you might find other fun items that would pique your child’s interest in music. Keep an open mind while looking. Maybe there’ll be an affordable set of bongos, a portable keyboard or an old saxophone that you can afford. Read all the precautionary statements on sites like Craigslist before using them, however, and use common sense when contacting or meeting with strangers.
  • Barter for lessons – Once you have focused your child’s interest and found an instrument for him to play, it’s time to start those lessons! If you’re lucky, your community may have qualified musicians who offer affordable music lessons to children. If not, consider hiring a neighborhood teen, perhaps one who has been in the school band himself.
  • Make it a do-it-yourself project – It’s easy to find musical training kits for kids in a wide range of prices, some very affordable. They usually come with a simple instrument and a how-to book or video. Popular sets teach kids how to play the drums, electronic keyboards, guitars, harmonicas and even kazoos! The step-by-step guides are usually quite kid-friendly; a motivated child really can teach himself.

But my child isn’t interested in music lessons!

Is your mini-musician a bit reluctant? The solution to the problem may be as simple as pointing out the obvious. Kids often think that music lessons and band classes are all about stodgy, old-style music tropes like Beethoven sonatas or square dance ditties. But, a quick tour of YouTube can be quite an eye opener for a budding musician. The video-sharing site has literally thousands of videos showing kids of every age playing some really cool pieces, including all the newest hits from the radio and from popular video games. Just type the name of a song your child loves into the search bar along with the word “cover” – you’ll be amazed at what pops up. And, when your child realizes that playing music can be really cool, he might just beg you for those lessons, after all.


NewsWeek, “The Surprising Connection Between Rhythm and Reading,”