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How Music Helps Literacy

While music is widely seen as a hobby, parents and educators are beginning to see the link between music and developing literacy skills. According to Luther College, “Literacy is larger than just reading and writing, and it also includes listening, speaking, and social skills that are relevant to communication.” Here’s how incorporating music into your child’s life can better improve the many facets of their literacy.

Music often helps one’s focus and memory, as it is necessary to know the order and notes when playing any given song. It can even lend a helping hand to a child’s reading and problem solving abilities in the form of sheet music. Additionally, music encourages fast thinking and listening. To stay in tune and recognize rhythm and/or melody, one has to be able to distinguish between sounds. State of Opportunity explains, “Phonological awareness is the ability to hear sounds that make up words in spoken language. Through phonological awareness, children learn to associate sounds with symbols, and create links to word recognition and decoding skills necessary for reading.”

While just playing any instrument is going to be majorly beneficial to your child’s literacy, you should ensure that you select the right one for their body type, age, and temperament. If they are more outgoing, get an instrument that tends to be front and center stage. However, if they are quieter, perhaps a softer instrument is a better match. Either way, make sure they have the ability to hold up the instrument they select no matter how tall or heavy it is. While they may need particularly small lips or fingers for different instruments, try to let them play whatever they are drawn to. This way, they are most likely to stick with it and enjoy it.

The many brands of instruments and their price points can be overwhelming for a first-time buyer. Before purchasing an instrument, make sure you select a beginner's model that meets your child’s needs. You can also consider renting (as you kiddo’s commitment could sway over time), but keep in mind that rental fees can add up, and it may be cheaper to purchase one in the long term. However, it they prove to be a quick learner, they may need to transition to an intermediate- or even professional-level instrument sooner rather than later, and could benefit from a rental. Either way, do your due diligence by reading reviews online and thoroughly researching the various types available. Know that it may be cheaper to purchase one in a store rather than online.

Another investment you may want to consider besides the instrument itself is hiring a private tutor. If your child is self-conscious about their abilities and doesn’t want to take lessons with others, home-based lessons are a great option. The hourly rate for lessons will vary, but expect to pay at least $30 an hour. (If that’s out of your budget, consider looking for music students at USF or UT who offer discounted rates.) If your budding musician gets serious about their tunes or if you have more than one child taking lessons, you may even want to consider converting a spare room in your home into a music sanctuary or even putting a small addition onto your home to make space for a music room. (This is a significant expense -- HomeAdvisor estimates the low-end cost of this project to be about $10,000 -- but a music room can be a great motivator for your child, and the space can always be converted later!)

Music can play a big role in the many ways we communicate with one another. What's more, a more musically literate youth could go a long way for a better educated populace. From self-expression to refined senses of understanding, empathy, or emotion, music is at the crux of it all.

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