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How does music help language and reading?

Last week my daughter turned 9 months old. The day she was born was simultaneously the happiest day of my life and the scariest day of my life. I was thrilled that she had finally arrived, but the weight of responsibility that hit me was slightly overwhelming. It was up to me to shape this little being but what did I know about raising a child? I'd never done it before! Thus, I've spent the better part of the past 9 months trying to read everything I can get my hands on about how to raise a happy, kind and intelligent child - in between feedings, diaper changes, and catching up on sleep…

The importance of a child's early exposure to music was something that kept coming up in all of the articles, blogs and books that I read. Some mothers are so convinced of the benefits of early music exposure that they buy headphones to place on their pregnant bellies so their babies can hear music in the womb! I was very close to buying a pair myself until I did a little extra research and found that there's not enough evidence to support that playing music to your baby in utero has any real benefits, and in fact, is more likely to overstimulate your baby than increase your baby's intelligence. I waited until my baby was born to start playing Mozart… I think that's still early enough. ;)

What studies have shown, is that babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parent or caregiver show "better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye. Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or didn't go their way." I enrolled my daughter in a Music Together class when she turned 6 months and I have seen first hand how she has benefitted. She has been pointing, waving, and smiling like a champ since she was 7 months. In addition, I don't know if this is a coincidence or not, but since starting the music class she has slowly used her pacifier less and less. She seems to be able to soothe herself more easily without it (hallelujah!)

Beyond the benefits of early communication and social skills, singing with your baby is also a wonderful way for parents to lay the foundation for reading readiness. Singing songs, chanting and reciting rhymes with your baby are all great activities that help build your baby's vocabulary and help to develop your baby's sound discrimination. According to Early Childhood News, these skills are important because the size of a child's vocabulary, and their ability to discriminate between sounds, are "strong predictors for how easily a child will learn to read when exposed to formal instruction." I encourage all mom's to join a music class, sing, chant and recite rhymes with your children in order to build a foundation for your child's literacy development, social skills, and communication skills.

Check out Music Together in your area!

Alexsandra is a mother actively involved in her local preschool, and a long time New Yorker as a graduate of Columbia University, New York

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