Reading, Writing, and Musicianship

The Harmony Project finds that regular music lessons can have many benefits.
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(Illustration: Denis Carrier)

(Illustration: Denis Carrier)

It’s a dynamic that frustrates educators: Children from low-income families will often begin their schooling at below-average reading levels, and gradually fall further behind. But one group of six-to-nine-year-olds in Los Angeles managed to buck that trend.

The young Spanish-English bilinguals took regular, hands-on music lessons as part of what is called the Harmony Project. The 23 participants completed a twice-weekly, hour-long musicianship class before progressing to an instrumental class, which typically met for four to five hours a week.

At the end of a year, these students “maintained their age-normed reading lessons, whereas a matched control group showed a modest decline in performance,” a research team led by Jessica Slater and Nina Kraus of Northwestern University writes in the journal PLoS One.

While there are competing theories as to why the lessons had this positive effect, Slater and her colleagues note they are a promising tool “to keep literacy development on track.”

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