Music as an Aid to Reading
Emerson, Anita R.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
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Recent reading test scores in many school districts have caused administrators to become alarmed about reading program quality. This, along with severe budget problems in many areas of the country, has resulted in a re-examination of the total curriculum, especially in areas relating to what many people consider the basics. This "back to basics" trend in education has put music in a precarious position in many school districts. For example, vocal and instrumental music programs were cut from the Louisville, Kentucky curriculum last July; twenty-five Illinois school districts cut out elementary music in the fall of 1976; and, Detroit, Michigan just recently lost their public school music program. Many music educators are attempting to defend their music programs against impending cutbacks by presenting the aesthetic philosophy as a means of showing that music can be part of a basic education. Keith Thompson, Associate Professor of music education at Pennsylvania State University says: “The uniqueness of the arts is in their ability to symbolize and express human feeling. Knowledge of these feelings and skills in processing that knowledge are part of the basic goal of education.” Most music educators will agree with and understand that statement; however, the writer has found many classroom teachers and administrators who still fail to see that aesthetic experience is as important or more important than basic learning areas. Lloyd Schmidt states: “The unfortunate truth must be acknowledged, however, that most elementary school music programs still have a barely token existence in a curriculum that, in practice, shows little relationship to the description and purposes found in the professional literature.” If music could be shown to enhance one of the basic subjects, perhaps educators would accept it more readily in the curriculum . This does not mean that music educators should abandon the aesthetic approach in favor of a program benefitting another subject only. The two programs could be incorporated. This idea of incorporating the two approaches might save elementary music programs from being cut as a non-essential. Reading is one of the most important skills taught to children in the elementary school. It is very important that they learn to read, for, “if they fail at reading, they fail at everything, and the child who cannot read becomes a sad child." In most subject areas, the students are required to read, and if they are unable to read, then chances are they will not do well in those subjects. Reading is also considered necessary for a person to function in modern society. If music can help children learn to read, the benefits would be great, and music would have a more secure place in the curriculum. It was the purpose of this paper to: (1) show that music can enhance an elementary reading program, and, (2) give activities showing how this can be done. Many of the activities given could be used by the classroom teachers as well as the music specialist.