Musical Education Improves Linguistic Ability

For those of you who are not familiar with Howard Gardiner, he proposed that there were several kinds of intelligences: Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal. In the next few weeks, I’ll be showing how music education can enhance each of these intelligences.

Girl with untidy hair about four years old in a white dress, stockings, and black Mary Janes sits on a flowered sofa, reading a book by the light through a window, another book beside her

Child Reading on Couch, 1905
Jessie Willcox-Smith

Today’s quote from the article, “An Intelligence View of Music Education,” by Arthur Harvey, Leka Nu Hou (Hawaii), February 1997, would seem to support the claim for the importance of music education as a means for enhancing linguistic intelligence.

A study by Hall in 1952, reported that when examining 278 eighth and ninth graders, the use of background music in study halls resulted in substantially more improvement of reading comprehension than those that studied without music. In a study by Ramey and Frances Campbell of the University of North Carolina (as reported in ‘You Can Raise Your Child’s IQ’ in Reader’s Digest October 1996), preschool children taught with games and songs showed an IQ advantage for 10 to 20 points over those without the songs, and at age 15 had higher reading and math scores.”

What we have learned from other research studies is that music does not have to be loud enough to hear it in order for music to have a profound effect. Therefore, it seems a no-brainer to play background classical music very softly during academic activities. Whether this is the result of a “priming” effect or some other mechanism is unclear, and in some ways, irrelevant to the desired outcome, which is increasing reading comprehension.

In the second study, it is fascinating that the results persist for at least a decade after the music instruction. This has important implications not only for academic performance, but for aging as well.

Gardiner’s book, Frames of Mind: the theory of Multiple Intelligences was a real eye-opener for the entire learning community when it was first published. If you haven’t read it, you might want to check it out!

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