New US research has found that learning a musical instrument can improve a child's reading and language skills.


A study carried out by Dr. Nina Kraus targetting disadvantaged schoolchildren in Los Angeles and Chicago found that those who had music lessons were able to maintain their reading ability while the children who had no music tuition showed a dip in reading scores.

Musically trained children were also found to be better at processing sounds and language.

Dr. Kraus, who investigates the neurobiology underlying speech and music perception at Northwestern University, carried out a similar project in 2010. This demonstrated that music training can have a profound effect on the sensory system and, with it, Kraus argued that music should be a mainstay of primary and secondary school education.

Kraus’s previous studies focused on more affluent students whereas the latest one looks at children from poorer backgrounds.

She says: ‘Research has shown that there are differences in the brains of children raised in impoverished environments that affect their ability to learn. While more affluent students do better in school than children from lower income backgrounds, we are finding that musical training can alter the nervous system to create a better learner and help offset this academic gap.’

In another study, children were exposed to band or choir practice every day after school for two years. The research showed that, after these two years, children were more attuned to hearing speech over background noise, which Kraus pointed out as invaluable for children listening to a teacher’s voice in a noisy classroom.


Eliot McQuire