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Music & Literacy

July 21, 2015

Neuroscientists find that music class can boost students’ reading proficiency.



Boosting language skills in music class. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[school band tuning]

School music programs often face cutbacks, as schools focus on core skills like literacy. But in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, neuroscientist Nina Kraus and her colleagues report that music lessons actually improve reading skills.

NINA KRAUS (Northwestern University, Institute for Neuroscience):

Auditory processing is very important for learning to read, because you need to, you know, first of all, have a strong connection between sound and language and your language skills, and then as you’re learning to read, you’re learning to associate the letters on a page with the sounds that you’re hearing.


In the latest report, high school freshman who had never learned to play an instrument were enrolled in either a music or a fitness program. Within two years, the music students outperformed the others in reading, and brain structures involved in literacy had matured more quickly. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

For more information:

Original study: