Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.
Research undertaken in 2014 by a team of Northwestern University researchers in Illinois, led by Dr Kali Carr, has now been updated in 2021.
The original research found that the ability to synchronise with a beat could indicate how well children of pre-school age would develop their future reading skills. Now in 2021, a Brainvolts team study led by Dr Silvia Bonacina, and based on Carr’s work, has made several leaps forward in this area of research.
The first was with the number of participants: from 35 preschoolers in the Chicago area in 2014 to 156 preschoolers in 2021. This is important, because the more participants there are in a study the more robust or reliable the findings are.
Another was finding that the children who were classified as synchronisers –meaning they could synchronise with different types of beats – also scored higher on pre-literacy tests. That’s because they can process speech sounds and detect changes in those sounds faster and with greater accuracy.
And possibly the most interesting development is the deeper understanding of how beat and reading are connecting in the brain. The new study found that rhythm, pre-literacy and auditory processing are interconnected during early childhood. The brain needs to process the components of language through many messages firing around the brain at the same time. To learn a language, and to keep a beat, you have to develop circuits that these messages can travel along.
Bonacina and her team make a powerful argument that the cognitive development of preschoolers in relation to pre-literacy (i.e. what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write) should also include musical activities that focus on auditory processing and accurate beat keeping.
Having this depth of understanding behind why beat synchronisation and language processing and reading skills are connected can only strengthen music education teaching and advocacy.
|BENEFIT:||LEARNING & LITERACY SKILLS|
|TARGET GROUP:||PRE-SCHOOL CHILDREN|
|TYPE OF STUDY:||ACADEMIC RESEARCH|
|PERIOD OF STUDY:||UNKNOWN|