| Mar 30, 2006

Feature Article - March 30, 2006

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Feature Article - March 30, 2006

Dear Mozart

by Susan Ramsay, Early Literacy Specialist for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington

Do you remember when you were five and showed your dad your first ink-splotched musical composition? He was so amazed. And I’m still amazed. Did you ever dream that people a continent and centuries removed would not only listen to your music, but would use it to discover how music impacts learning?

I expect you would have enjoyed meeting Don Campbell. His work as musician, educator, and researcher has led him to name the positive influence of classical music on learning “The Mozart Effect”. He links listening to your style of music with children’s increased abilities in math, spatial reasoning and memory.


A lot of people are also discovering the value of music to reading. They recognize that printed music and printed words are similar. Both use symbolic representation of sound. In music the sound/symbol relationship is written with notes. In words it is written with letters. Through musical symbols and punctuation we write and interpret emotion. Through movement and rhythm, such as dancing and poetry, we help children hear sound in segments beats in music and rhythm in words.

According to Meg de Mougin, an educator and musician, music impacts reading in a variety of ways. She labels three specific reading skills that are enhanced through musical experiences - aural discrimination, sequential learning and mid-line development.

Aural discrimination involves active listening. Before children can link speech sounds to letters on a page, they must be able to hear differences in sound. Music nurtures this skill. Whether children are singing, listening or playing music, they must listen and distinguish pitch, volume, rhythm and tone.

Sequential learning is learning how to put information in a specific order. When we add in instruments, dance steps or verses to a song, we build an understanding of sequence. This is especially important to math, and also crucial to reading. Order of words, paragraphs and ideas demonstrate the value of sequence to literacy.

Mid-line development refers to the way our eyes move from left to right and then swoop left again as we read. The inability to cross the mid-line with our eyes (found when we look straight ahead) can interfere with fluency in reading. Training the eyes to do this is tough. But amazingly, practicing this skill using large muscles (e.g. with arms or legs) seems to train the eyes to move across the mid-line as well. Playing the violin, piano, or waving a streamer in a figure 8 pattern to music can help some struggling readers!

Canadians celebrate contemporary music in March during Canada Music Week and in April with the Juno Awards. You aren’t alone in your gift of music, Mozart, but you have inspired us, in a variety of ways, to fill our children’s lives with singing, dancing, playing and listening to the music.

Thanks Mozart.

And thanks to you as well: music teachers, musicians and parents who sing lullabies or dance to the radio with your child.

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