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Why Children Need to Study Music

By Deborah Williams

A recent article on the Science Daily website reinforces proponents of maintaining arts programs in schools.  Researchers from Northwestern University “found that children who regularly attended music classes and actively participated showed larger improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers after two years.”  Sitting passively in music classes does not seem to be as beneficial as actively participating.

Researchers found that the type of music classes was important.  “Students who played instruments in class improved more than the children who attended the music appreciation group.”  This type of engagement strengthened students’ neural processing in the brain.  Lead author Nina Kraus, professor of communication sciences in the School of Communication and of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, explained, “Our results support the importance of active experience and meaningful engagement with sound to stimulate changes in the brain.”

Researchers from Northwestern also looked at data from the Harmony Project, which looks for scientific evidence of academic success of some of its students.  Northwestern researchers found that “two years of music training—but not one—improved the brains’ ability to distinguish similar-sounding syllables, a skill linked to literacy.”

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