Raise your child’s intellectual capacity with music education

A useful summary article about the benefits of music education, particularly for babies, toddlers and younger children, outlining the following benefits and referencing the research:

  • Musical development – Your child’s aptitude for learning music is at its strongest from birth to 18 months. Children learn more in this critical 18-month period than in any other 18-month period in their life. The second most important time for musical development in one’s entire life is from 18 months to 5 years old.
  • Intellectual development – Music is the only activity or subject matter that actively engages both hemispheres of the brain at the same time. Those who begin studying music before the age of 7 and continue through the teenage years will have an average IQ score of 7.5 points higher than those who don’t study music.
  • Language development – Music education advances the early development of the auditory processing network in the brain. This is the network used to make meaning of sounds and learn spoken language. Songs introduce new vocabulary words in rapid succession and in turn significantly boost a child’s working vocabulary.
  • Literacy development – Literacy levels have been shown to improve by between one and three grade levels with consistent music education beginning from birth with activities as simple as singing, musical games, listening to music, repeating rhythmical or tonal patterns, and learning an instrument at age 5-7.
  • Imagination – Life without music would be bleak. Music opens up an entirely new world to a child. It enables a child to gain insights into himself/herself, others and most importantly life itself. These insights help to develop and sustain a child’s imaginative creativity. Because a child hears and participates in some music every single day, it is to a child’s advantage to understand music as thoroughly as possible.

The writer Kathryn Brunner, has been a music educator for 17 years in the USA, and is also a parent and music business owner.


Truro Preschool and Kindergarten:

Anita Collins: music education key to raising literacy and numeracy standards

anita+TEDAustralian researcher Anita Collins extols the value of music education and says that instead of agonising over why students can’t or won’t study maths or science perhaps we should concentrate on improving cognitive capacity via music lessons.

Two decades of research have found that music education grows, hones and permanently improves neural networks like no other activity. Children who undertake formal, ongoing musical education have significantly higher levels of cognitive capacity, specifically in their language acquisition and numerical problem solving skills. They also continue in education for longer, reverse the cognitive issues related to disadvantage and earn and contribute more on average across their lifetime.

Music education is often one of the first programmes to be cut or scaled back when the purse strings are tightened in a school. When considering the research that now exists, this seems flawed. Many of the intervention programs that are in operation in schools may find they are less in demand if music education is viewed not as an extra but as a concurrent neural enhancer to literacy and numeracy education.


The Age:


DATE: 2015

Good music teaching can support children’s literacy

Empowering teachers with the skills to use music in the classroom can boost not only music skills in children, but also helps to improve aspects of literacy, particularly reading.

Children taking part in the New London Orchestra’s (NLO) Literacy through Music project significantly improved their reading abilities compared to those in control groups.

There was an average reading age improvement across the seven NLO programme classes of 8.4 months (from a minimum 4.8 months to a maximum of 13.2 months). This compares with an average reading age improvement in the two control classes of 1.8 months. The NLO programme children also made a significant improvement in their singing ability and sustained their perceived sense of being socially included. The NLO impacts were equally beneficial for children of both sexes.

Sessions involved the teaching of music and literacy activities and took place in 30 primary schools in the London Borough of Newham, involving around 650 teachers, during 2011.

A central part of the scheme was focused on improving primary school teachers’ confidence and skills in using music in the classroom, and providing them with methods and activities that they could use to support literacy development. By the end of the programme, two-thirds of teachers had used music-based activities to support other aspects of learning, including literacy, and said they would now them use them on a daily basis.


A Research Evaluation of the New London Orchestra “Literacy through Music” Programme, Teacher Inset provision by Jo Saunders, Graham Welch and Evangelos Himonides

Download the report from iMerc, the International Music Education Research Centre:


BENEFIT: Language development
TARGET GROUP: Young people
AGE: 6-7 years
TYPE OF STUDY: Academic research
NOs INVOLVED: 268 (207 participants, 61 in control groups)
DATE: 2011
PLACE: United Kingdom

Music helps kids avoid losing learning skills during holidays

Research has shown that the long break from school over the summer holidays can result in some children forgetting the academic skills learned over the school year. Studies by Florida International University confirm that children can lose about 2.6 months of their maths skills over the summer, and some groups of children lose two months of reading skills.

An article posted on the Chicago Tribune website suggests that music can help, and quotes a range of practitioners and experts.


Chicago Tribune:

How playing an instrument benefits your brain

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on? Anita Collins of the University of Canberra explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.

Research has shown that learning a musical instrument involves the motor, visual and auditory cortices all at the same time and can enhance reading skills, memory systems, executive function and general cognitive function. Recent research has found the ability for a child to keep a steady beat is an indication that, neurologically, they are ready to begin reading.

Musical training enhances children’s verbal intelligence

BENEFIT: Verbal intelligence
TARGET GROUP: Young people
AGE: 4-6 years
MUSIC TYPE: Structured musical training
TYPE OF STUDY: Academic research
DATE: 2011
PLACE: Canada


Canadian researchers from York University reported that the verbal intelligence of 4- to 6-year-olds rises after only one month of musical training. The study suggests that early music education stimulates a child’s brain, leading to improved performance in an entirely different arena – verbal intelligence. This finding echoes the results of a 2009 study of second-graders (, which found the reading skills of those who received structured musical training were superior to those of their peers. Such research suggests cutting music education to concentrate on “the basics” is based on a misunderstanding of the way young minds work.



Psychological Science:

Cambridge University Centre for Music & Science:

Musical children likely to be better with words too


A study by Northwestern University, led by Dr Nina Kraus, found that musical ability is biologically linked to literacy. Children – aged between 8 and 13 – who performed well in reading tests were also good at discerning rhythm and tone, and they also did better than average in tests of verbal memory. Music skill accounted for 38 per cent of the variation in reading ability between children, and the study showed that literacy and musical aptitude shared a common origin in the brain. Dr Kraus said: “These results add weight to the argument that music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms and suggests a mechanism for the improvements in literacy seen with musical training.”


The Scotsman:


BENEFIT: Literacy
TARGET GROUP: Young people
AGE: 8-13 years
TYPE OF STUDY: Academic research
DATE: 2011
PLACE: United States