White Paper on the Benefit of Using Music to Teach Early Literacy Skills


Educators are constantly looking for new methods to teach reading and writing. With the appropriate structure and implementation, fostering early literacy skills through singing and music can be extremely valuable and effective. The early literacy skills required for reading that are enhanced through singing are phonological awareness, letter knowledge, print awareness, narrative skills, vocabulary, and print motivation. Music fits in well with an early education classroom because it encourages and intrigues the children. Singing provides a practical tool educators can use to improve and increase the acquisition of skills needed to read, and retain core academic knowledge.

Early Literacy Skills

• Phonological awareness, and the realization that words are made up of a variety of sound units, is one of the first stages of literacy. Music and singing is all about phonological awareness. Through song, children can segment sounds, create blends and different sound “chunks”.
• Letter knowledge and print awareness also comes at these early stages of literacy. Just as we learn the alphabet by singing the alphabet song, children can recognize letters, and become aware of their structure through music.
• Narration with music builds comprehension, awareness of plot, characterization, visualization, perspective-taking, and author’s point of view.
• Word knowledge and vocabulary needs application. Singing about vocabulary can provide a unique medium to teach and put words into context.
• Writing goes hand-in-hand with reading. Because Common Core calls for writing that reflects on text, teaching reading skills through effective mediums like song, can improve writing skills.

Music and Singing Enhances Daily Interactions with Children

Children love to learn. When implemented properly, children enjoy different presentations of content. Music provides an exciting and enjoyable presentation of content. So often our classrooms are teacher-centered, and the voice of the teacher dominates. Singing allows for children to be more vocal, and participate with the educator. Being able to alternate among different methods of instruction, singing and music being one, keeps children focused, involved, and learning. Texts express ideas, singing to interpret text adds a deeper layer of understanding. When learning or reading about safety and life skills, children can sing and build literacy skills. Transitions in the classroom, especially at younger ages, can be a struggle for teachers. Singing, while making those shifts in the classroom, can really smooth transitions out.

The Impact Singing has on Learning

Children hum and sing constantly, sometimes before they can even talk. Throughout the day children can be heard singing while they work.Teachers are often looking for useful pedagogy that resonates with children and encourages their students to continue to apply what they have learned. Instruction with music brings joy and motivation to learn. Through song they learn to express themselves,learn literacy skills, and about the world around them. While singing, students concentrate, develop listening and speech skills, retain information, visualize, and build their imaginations. Foreign language acquisition often involves music as well.

How Educators Can Implement Singing in the Classroom to Teach Literacy

Educators can utilize singing as a method to teach literacy skills in early education. Singing can accompany content and text, or stand alone to build literacy. Children are learning to form words, put words into ideas, and understand what they are singing about. Singing can happen during reading, writing, grammar, text structure, and letter knowledge lessons. It can also be a part of classroom management. Reading could be done by singing the text. This helps emerging readers grasp storylines and text. Often when trying to help memorize important skills, teachers can use music. Letters, parts of speech, spelling, and so much more can be learned with song. Music and songs can be presented with multimedia, instruments, and by the students themselves because they’ve been given a tool to retain what they are learning.

Singing Improves Retention and Core Academics

Building early literacy skills involves comprehending text. Recognizing letter sounds, print, and vocabulary, allows for understanding. Music can be used to build those foundational skills as well as core comprehension. Recalling and sequencing events in a story, and summarizing the text, can be accomplished through song. Instead of starting a re-tell with one student or with a teacher speaking, the classroom can participate together and build comprehension with singing. Reading comprehension skills and Common Core terminology can be taught with music. The author’s purpose, plot devices, genre, asking questions, and other reading skills can be acquired through songs. Much of learning grammar involves memorization. Songs stick. Children can sing a song about the different parts of speech and be able to identify them all.

Literacy is such an important foundation for all learning, and fostering meaningful literacy acquisition in young children, lays the groundwork for successful learning in the future. Singing and music provides educators with meaningful and effective tools to build reading and writing skills.

Ginger Dohmen
Literacy Teacher