A Magical Education, Part II: The Link Between Singing and Literacy by Susan A. Haid, Author-Producer Lily’s Truth

by Susan A. Haid

For many kids, learning to read is an arduous process.  Of course, there are developmental landmarks that must be reached before literacy skills can reach their full potential.  Unfortunately, standardized testing in today’s public schools require that children learn to read at the same time, at the same pace, in the same way, like cookies punched from cookie-cutters. This leaves little room for a child’s natural rate of development to unfold. This natural rate of development is replaced with pressure to learn before the brain is ready.

When reading skills come easily and naturally to a child, the child feels intelligent and confident about their ability to learn.  Frankly, it should be no surprise that children who learn to read at a slower rate, a rate deemed ‘less than proficient’ by standardized testing, feel ‘stupid’.  Their confidence in their ability to learn is damaged very early on. Moreover, their self-esteem and self-confidence is broken as well.

It has been my experience that slow readers are told to read, read, read. Practice makes perfect.  Of course, what is a parent and a child to do?  This seems like an obvious solution.  However, when a child is placed in a pressure cooker and forced to learn at a rate that is not equivalent to their developmental level, then we have created bigger problems that overshadow mere literacy skills.

It is time that we change how we are teaching our children to read. Instead of teaching in a manner that suits the teacher, a manner that gives the appearance of ease and expedience, a manner that is as old as time, we should be facilitating the learning process in ways that are gentle, enjoyable and elegant for the child.

There is a way, you see, a way that is older than time itself: singing.

Why singing?  To start with, when we sing, the whole brain is involved. Science is beginning to understand the benefits of whole-brain learning; whole-brain learning, or connecting both hemispheres of the brain during the learning process, is highly desirable and extremely beneficial.  Singing accomplishes this along with enhancing fluency and building comprehension of language structure.

Pretty good.  And fun too.

As we cut back on funding for arts in the schools, we need to rethink this decision.   I believe the answer here is to merge arts with education directly, blending the arts with the learning process right in the classroom. Learning will be much more fun for everyone, much more whole-brain, and much, much more joyful and memorable.

I have used this gentle method with my own children.  We still read books, of course, every day.  But when my kids sing along with sheet music and a companion CD, they sing for hours….on and off all day long.  They read and sing their lyrics over and over and over.  This kind of repetition I could not achieve with a book alone.

They are learning to read without barriers and pressure.  They are learning to read in a joyful and magical way.  My house is filled with the sweetness of music and young voices all day long.

By the way, my kids are gaining an education in music too.

The biggest suggestion I might offer if you are going to try this with your own children is this: use beautiful music.  Use beautiful music….kids respond to it, well, beautifully.  Between fabulous Andrew Lloyd Webber compositions and lively broadway show tunes, there is a wealth of grand music to choose from.

Before you know it, your kids will be singing, singing, singing!  And oh gosh, they’ll be learning to read too.

For more tools to empower your children, visit www.lilystruth.com.

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