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What Teachers Can Contribute to the Research

Dr. Sue Snyder

I have worked with the relationship between music and reading for a long time. We have very little hard data, but lots of anecdotal evidence ranging from higher mastery test scores to higher attendance and self esteem. Here is a brief perspective which has worked for me, along with some recommendations for research topics you might want to explore. It is intended just as a start-

The more teacher-as- researcher projects we can document, the stronger our collective evidence will be. I would be happy to dialogue with any interested teacher/researcher in an effort to put you in touch with each other! If we could establish a consortium of projects working toward this common goal, it would benefit all teachers.

 - First of all, music and words are two different languages. Often word language is embedded in music language (words in songs, speech pieces and rhymes, etc.). However, each language can and often does stand alone regardless of the common interpretive elements. If this is true, then there can be literacy in each language.

- Literacy, according to language arts curricula, consists of the ability to speak, listen, read, write, and think in a language.

- Some of the acquisition processes relating to word language probably apply to music language, and visa versa. However, music language is not usually reinforced as much as word language as it emerges in the young child. Written music language is sometimes not addressed at all. (But then, there are not written forms of over 2/3 of the world's word and music languages!)

- If the acquisition processes are similar, it is a good hypothesis (hunch) that learning to read music would transfer to learning to read words.

- Through brain mapping, we know that when words are read the language center of the brain "lights up." When music is read, "the brain lights up like a Christmas tree." (Frank Wilson).

- When learners are having difficulty with reading words, it would seem sensible to try to find different routes to understanding through neurological pathways that involve as many areas of the brain as possible, and especially ones where the acquisition processes may be related.

 - Other possible routes to explore which relate music with literacy, or might become side issues in a study, include:

  • Characteristics of children's songs which are the same as characteristics of texts recommended for emergent readers,

  • The effect of music on motivation in young readers,

  • The common elements of the process from pictorial representation to traditional "notation" in words and music,

  • The effect of exploring elements of musical interpretation on the ability to encode word language text,

  • The musical elements in each language that are culture bound.

 

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