, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 739-769
Date: 06 Jun 2012

Links between early rhythm skills, musical training, and phonological awareness

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Abstract

A small number of studies show that music training is associated with improvements in reading or in its component skills. A central question underlying this present research is whether musical activity can enhance the acquisition of reading skill, potentially before formal reading instruction begins. We explored two dimensions of this question: an investigation of links between kindergartners’ music rhythm skills and their phonological awareness in kindergarten and second grade; and an investigation of whether kindergartners who receive intensive musical training demonstrate more phonological skills than kindergartners who receive less. Results indicated that rhythm skill was related to phonological segmentation skill at the beginning of kindergarten, and that children who received more music training during kindergarten showed improvement in a wider range of phonological awareness skills at the end of kindergarten than children with less training. Further, kindergartners’ rhythm ability was strongly related to their phonological awareness and basic word identification skills in second grade. We argue that rhythm sensitivity is a pre-cursor skill to oral language acquisition, and that the ability to perceive and manipulate time intervals in sound streams may link performance of rhythm and phonological tasks.