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.”
Quick Studies is an award-winning series that sheds light on new research and discoveries that change the way we look at the world.
Submit your response to this story to email@example.com. If you would like us to consider your letter for publication, please include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium.
For more from Pacific Standard on the science of society, and to support our work, sign up for our email newsletter and subscribe to our bimonthly magazine, where this piece originally appeared. Digital editions are available in the App Store (iPad) and on Zinio (Android, iPad, PC/MAC, iPhone, and Win8), Amazon, and Google Play (Android).