From a study by Erin Lewis :
In traditional reading and CARE lessons (a curriculum used to help students learn to read and identify sounds), music is not played to enhance the learning environment. However, some studies have shown that when music is played during learning experiences there is more retention of the material. This research project compared the traditional teaching method with an enhanced learning environment. During a 6-week period of time, the researcher worked with 39 first grade students between the ages of 6 and 7 at a suburban elementary school in East Tennessee. All of the students were involved in both learning environments. In the enhanced learning environment classical music was played in the background during the lessons. During the first treatment, the students were exposed to traditional methods of teaching. At the end of the first 3-week segment, the students were given a test to determine how much information they retained. The students were then exposed to three weeks of classical music played in the background during their lessons. Following the treatment the students were given another test to determine how much information they retained. Paired-sample t-tests were used to compare scores of the tests of both the Reading and CARE lessons. The t-test for reading revealed that there was a significant difference between the scores of first grade students during the traditional method of teaching reading and the enhanced reading environment using music. The t-test for CARE also revealed that there was a significant difference between the scores of first grade students during the traditional method of teaching reading and the enhanced CARE environment using music. This study shows that the traditional learning environment for teaching reading was more effective for recall information. This study also shows that the enhanced learning environment for teaching CARE was more effective for recalling letter sounds and names, implying that the enhanced learning environment for teaching CARE is more effective. [emphasis added]
My guess is, the music creates a distraction in reading, but in teaching other skills, the music enhances recall. Based on other studies, I wonder what might happen if the music played during reading lessons were played at a much softer level, since it’s clear from other studies that you don’t have to hear the music to benefit from it.
In any case, here is another link between memory and classical music, and the difference between studying certain tasks while music is played, and without the music, and it’s clear once again that playing classical music does make a difference!