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February 16, 2018
Written By: Jenny Wise

To understand how music can improve literacy education, ask yourself how you learned the alphabet as a child. Chances are at some point your teachers taught you the "ABC" song. Using melodies as a memorization aid is an ancient and effective way of imparting knowledge. This same principle can help students to not only master the fundamentals of reading and writing but to develop a lifelong love of the written word. Here's why:
  • Music promotes active listening, which is essential for developing literacy. The skills honed through focusing one's mind on a favorite tune have direct application to learning other subjects, including reading and writing.
  • Listening to music help students to develop phonological awareness, or the ability to not only hear but to interact with the basic elements of language.
  • Music enriches a student's vocabulary through verbal and mental repetition.
Music literacy is a touchstone of a well-rounded education. Students with musical knowledge are able to converse with people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. They can often grasp mathematical concepts more readily than others. Plus, knowing how to play an instrument can help a students to enter the college of their choice. With all these benefits, it's easy to see why understanding music is crucial for a child's mental, social, and professional development.

Helping students to enjoy the greatest possible benefit from music education requires parents as well as teachers to take an active role in the process. Some ways to do so include:
  • Singing along with children as they learn educational songs.
  • Allowing children to compose their own lyrics.
  • Encouraging children to play a musical instrument. 
Let's focus on the third suggestion for a while.

Choosing the Right Instrument

Which instrument is best for your children will depend on their age and body type as well as the instrument's versatility. For example:
  • Stringed instruments, including the piano, are great choices for most kids between four and eight years of age. Woodwinds, on the other hand, require fully developed lung capacity and the strength to hold the instrument for prolonged periods of time, traits which normally do not develop until the early teen years or later.
  • Starting with the flute or clarinet can reduce the learning curve needed for playing the saxophone or other wind instruments later on, according to Music Parents Guide, making these choices both versatile and practical. 
  • Practical matters should factor into the final choice. For example, if your child rides the bus to school, then a smaller instrument is probably the right way to go.
How to Purchase a Musical Instrument

Here are some tips for choosing the instrument that's best for your children as well as your budget:
  • Talk to the music director at their school. Many institutions have quality pre-owned instruments for sale or rent at very reasonable prices. 
  • Locally owned music shops often have wider selection and better service than franchised locations.
  • There's no need to splurge on the first instrument. For example, let's say your child wants to learn the piano. It's perfectly fine for her to start with an electronic keyboard and upgrade as her interests and skills develop. In some cases, such as with the trombone, it's even possible to purchase plastic versions of the instrument that play almost as well as traditional forms.
  • Consult instrument buying guides like this saxophone buying guide from Music & Arts.
A world of educational and social enrichment awaits children who make music an active part of their lives. Use the tips in this post to help guide them in their selections. The seeds you plant today will reap a harvest of benefits over the years to come.