Benefits of Kindermusik: Boosting Early Literacy

Increased literacy development is one of the major benefits of a consistent music program. And that can happen before elementary school!

In fact, an independent research firm found that preschoolers who experienced just 30 minutes a week of Kindermusik demonstrated 32% greater gains in language and literacy skills.


How did researchers test for literacy development? *

Using the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)** pretest and posttest scores, a study conducted by SEG Measurement found that children involved in the Kindermusik program (starting at the same level of reading readiness) made 32% greater progress compared to those who did not participate.

An independent research firm found that preschoolers who experienced just 30 minutes a week of Kindermusik demonstrated 32% greater gains in language and literacy skills.

To evaluate the effectiveness of Kindermusik’s curriculum, the firm followed 299 preschool children during the school year. Aside from weekly in-class instruction, families of participating children were given extensive at-home materials with each unit (now included physically or digitally within our kits), to help continue the experience outside of the school day.

Why does music increase literacy development?

Why does music increase literacy development?

Music and literacy are processed the same way…through sound! 

That’s why, at Kindermusik, we introduce elements like steady beat to babies and build on it from there. And like rhythmic patterns, early childhood songs use simple language patterns, vocabulary, and storytelling. All of these elements contribute to a strong foundation for early literacy skills.

Music builds memory.

When instruction involves singing, dancing, and instrument play, children are forced to listen carefully and pay attention. That type of concentration builds memory, and memory is essential to nurturing reading readiness.

Music sparks imagination.

Music sparks imagination. 

Did you know that imagination is considered an advanced cognitive ability? When this concept is introduced at an early age, it naturally boosts other areas of development, including literacy.

At Kindermusik, we encourage imagination through song, sound exploration, and movement, but children also experience that opportunity through our read-aloud components.

Reading Aloud directly affects language development

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics cites that reading aloud “directly affects language development, a major factor in school readiness, during the critical period of early brain development.”

Our units are accompanied by stories that take little minds to different places and encourage them to envision, recreate, and even empathize with the characters. The combination of bolstered imagination through music and read-aloud is a double recipe for success! 


Why do children need a “music program”?

We know that children thrive on routines and that they actually foster positive overall behavior and performance, whether at home or in the classroom. That’s exactly what a music program, like a weekly Kindermusik class, does!

When kids can anticipate next steps and are genuinely excited about participation they will naturally build on those steady, positive experiences. Consistency in learning methods is key, and with just a little effort, you’ll see them expand all areas of development (like literacy!) in no time.

-Reposted from Kindermusik International

The Arts in Education

“It is really through the arts that we give form to some of our most powerful experiences of being human. . . I really believe that an education which omits the arts is omitting a major part of what it is that makes us human”—Sir Ken Robinson

Have you seen The Monuments Men?  George Clooney directed this film, a great homage to the real-life men who, in World War II, risked their lives in order to preserve the legacy of the worlds’ great artists, the works that Hitler determined to destroy if he could not have them for himself.

The Book Thief touches on this subject, as well.  I loved the book, but finally got to see the movie adaptation last weekend (how much did I love Geoffery Rush?).  The image of people tossing books onto a burning pyre was powerful, and I couldn’t help but wonder what role this extermination of art and literature had on the devastation of the Holocaust.  If the arts help us remain connected with our humanity, what happens in a world without those arts?

People more well-versed than I have written a lot about the importance of arts in education.  Check out some of these great insights (yes, I’m a little consumed with Sir Ken Robinson these days, as his paradigm has come up in multiple conversations of late):

But it’s not all from Sir Ken:

There’s an article from that examines what, exactly, is being done currently in schools to revive arts education: here has a great list of facts about how important the arts are, and includes suggestions about how teens can get involved: here

The National Endowment for the Arts has a lot of great resources, news, and grant opportunities: here

It’s true, Kindermusik is a high-quality music program that uses all sorts of strategies and techniques to help children learn musical concepts in a developmentally appropriate way.  However, it is far more than music education.  It is a way of using the arts to help develop the whole child.  Raising a child is an amazing, and sometimes very difficult, task.  Sometimes it is hard, in the middle of the diapers and cleaning up the messes, to remember that, among the difficulties, there is great joy in raising children.  Participating in Kindermusik classes with my children has been a great way for me to “give form . . . to most powerful experiences of being” a parent, and I’m grateful for it.

Signing Time at the Studio

My son, when he was about 18 months old, once said the word “puppy” (his favorite stuffed animal), and that was it for another year.  He seemed neurotypical in all other aspects, but I was still concerned that he wasn’t speaking.  I had done some sign language with my oldest girl, but at that point got serious about signing with him.  I increased my vocabulary, showed him as many Signing Time videos as I could get my hands on, and noticed a drastic change.  Where he had previously taken me by the hand, walked me over to the fridge, patiently waited for me to open the fridge, and pointed to the milk, now he was giving me the sign for MILK.  It was as if we flipped a language switch in his brain—he seemed to understand that there were symbols (signed or spoken) for things he wanted or needed, and he could use those to communicate.  With the introduction of sign, his language abilities took off.

Obviously, correlation doesn’t prove causation—my experience with my son isn’t a viable science experiment.  Lucky for us, though, there are researchers who have studied this, and their findings are similar.  Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn have found that kids who learn sign language have better overall language skills than those who don’t learn sign—they have “bigger vocabularies” and “(use) longer sentences.”

You’ll know you’re in a good learning environment when a teacher finds a way to engage verbal, aural and kinesthetic/tactile learning modalities into the lesson plan, as we all have ways that we learn best.  For me, personally, I have to take notes (preferably in a textbook—it was heaven when I got to college).  I rarely refer back to these notes, but once I have written them down, I remember them more easily.  My daughter, on the other hand, needs to use manipulatives of some sort—she always works better when she’s cutting something, or moving something around.  Muscle memory works to our advantage to help us recall certain concepts–by teaching children sign language, we engage their full bodies in the learning process.

As I recollect this process with my son, I find it hard to believe that the 8 year old child who is, at this moment, scrambling his own eggs for breakfast was that same kid who, even when he started speaking, was difficult to understand (because even once he became more verbal, we still did some speech therapy together).  The journey of a mom is fraught with equal parts love and pain.  Nevertheless, I’m grateful for all the ways he and I have communicated through the years, and have a special place in my heart for the way sign language helped us through a particularly critical period.

Last spring, Kindermusik dissolved their Sign & Sing class.  At that point, Angela Horsfall joined the Song of the Heart community to teach Signing Time classes—and she’s absolutely fantastic!  She has the benefit of being an Advanced Certified Instructor.  There are still openings for the class, and we’d love to have you join us, regardless of your previous experience with sign.

Reading, Storytelling and Language Acquisition

In the last few weeks, I have been learning about a methodology that many teachers of world languages are using in schools called TPRS, which stands for Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling.  In my pre-mom days I was a Spanish teacher, and it’s been interesting to see how this methodology (new since I taught) meshes with what I have learned as a Kindermusik educator in terms of how any of us learns a language, whether it be our first one or our fifth.

A TPRS educator may teach very differently from the one you may recall from your own Spanish I days.  She or he does not spend an hour conjugating verbs or giving lengthy explanations about what a present progressive verb tense even is.  Nor does he or she teach vocabulary arranged by thematic topic (“Today,  we’re studying ‘body parts’” ) without any context.  Rather, in a TPRS class, the teacher and students, together, create a story in class, building on vocabulary with which the students are already familiar.  Teachers expose their students to hearing many repetitions of only about three new phrases or vocabulary words in a lesson before they expect the kids to speak, and they teach grammar through natural use.  Additionally, they ask their students to give an appropriate gesture or physical representation when they hear the new words.  Vocabulary is taught in context (describing the main character of a story, an elephant, perhaps, will include some animal words, some body part words, as well as physical and emotional descriptive words).  TPRS teachers encourage a playful and personal atmosphere, often asking silly questions about the story they’re telling or making sure that the vocabulary and stories reflect vocabulary that is germane to the students’ lives.  After telling stories in class, the group moves to reading, and finally to free writing.  Throughout the process, the class may sing little songs or create pictures of the stories they tell.

While the TPRS methodology isn’t without some controversy (mostly from those expecting a traditional foreign language approach), research supports its effectiveness.  “In speaking, writing, vocabulary and grammar . . . TPRS has consistently outperformed traditional teaching, and has at least equaled traditional teaching in every study.”  (Show Me the Data: Research on TPRS Storytelling“) To me, this is no great surprise.  It is exactly what we do in Kindermusik, and even what we do naturally as caretakers for our little ones.  Of course, Kindermusik is more than just a music and movement program.  It is about teaching the whole child, and language acquisition is a large component of that whole-child development.

In my daughter’s Kindermusik class last week, for instance, they created stories together about being frogs—what do the frogs do?  Eat bugs, hop from lily pad to lily pad, and swim.  They used gestures, including the ASL sign for FROG, and hopped and swam from lily pad to lily pad.  They sang songs about frogs (my daughter loves the finger plays and requests them when we’re driving), and this month on the @home Kindermusik site the story is Frog Went a-Dancing, which includes a repetition of certain phrases and of course a lot of silliness (animals are speaking and each has a dancing song).

I don’t recollect ever explaining to my children that there is a difference between past and present tense verbs—instead, I use the verb tenses as they come up.  Naturally, it takes kids awhile to figure out that “eated” is actually an irregular verb, but not because anyone sat down and said, “the verb ‘to eat’ is irregular and will be conjugated differently in the past tense.”  No–eventually, with enough repetition and reading, our kids figure it out.  Participating in Kindermusik helps with all of this critical repetition.

You will notice that our Song of the Heart Kindermusik studio supports language acquisition in a variety of ways, not just what happens in a Kindermusik class.  Having puppeteers come for our Fall Festival exposes children to stories, thereby enriching vocabulary and helping them create meaning of the world.  We have books for children to read while they wait for their class to start, or in the hall while they wait for their siblings to finish class.  The educators incorporate natural gestures for words as well as American Sign Language instruction—both within a Kindermusik class and as part of a separate Signing Time class you can take with your little one.  (Teaching your children ASL in and of itself has proven to be a fantastic way to help them develop language.)  Taking a ukulele class encourages older students to learn a more sophisticated vocabulary—music-specific words as well as the more complex words that we find in other songs (the same holds true for the other music classes we offer for big kids).

Clearly, as humans we need connection with others.  Language acquisition is an important part of that connection.  Of course, not every child follows a neuro-typical path to developing language skills.  Nevertheless, exposing our children to as many research-based best practices will give them great opportunities to receive the love and nurture that comes from communicating with others.  Storytelling and reading are such important components of that communication and I appreciate being part of the Kindermusik studio where we nurture that connection with our kids.

P.S. Did you see the blog post from last week1,000 Books Before Kindergarten is another great way to support language acquisition!

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

Today’s guest blog post comes from an e-mail we received from one of the parents in our Kindermusik community.  Enjoy!

Miss Carol,

I wasn’t sure what to send you regarding our experience with this program so I just wrote it like a letter.  Let me know if you would like additional information.

As an educator for almost 10 years, I knew the importance of reading to young children, especially before they entered school.  Also, as a quiet stay-at-home-dad, who was not a big talker, I wanted to ensure that I filled my son’s day with words, songs, rhymes, and the joy that they all bring.  My wife and I found a library program on the internet called 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten but it was not offered in any of the local libraries.  The program emphasized reading and preparing young ones before entering into Kindergarten and supported its claims through studies.

Studies show that reading to toddlers and preschoolers: creates a stronger bond between parents and children, leads to more success in school, increases and improves basic speech skills, creates more logical thinking skills, builds comprehension and context, enhances concentration and discipline, and increases their chances of reading more as they grow older (10 Reasons Why You Should Read to Your Child).

My wife and I were instantly hooked and began our, then, 18 month-old son on the program.  We explained the program to our friends and family and they assisted in the program as well by reading to our son, buying books for his own personal library, and emphasizing reading whenever they could.  We utilized the Salt Lake County Libraries massive resources of board books and picture books, along with his own personal 300 book library, and story-time from friends and family and Mrs. Patrice at our very own Kindermusik Class and are excited to say that he completed his journey this past fall.  It took a little over 2 years but the journey was, and still is, a wonderful one for him and the whole family.  We shared our experience with the Millcreek Center Library and Suzanne Tronier, the manager, has decided to adopt the program.  They are preparing the program for any interested parents as we speak.

I loved participating in this program.  It created a most wonderful bond between my son and I, and between him and the rest of our family and friends.  Through this program, he was introduced to so many things, such as: songs, rhymes, opposites, seasons and those things associated with seasons, animals, classification, colors, shapes, the alphabet, numbers, character building, concepts regarding our faith, diverse people and places, cultures, humor, vocabulary to recognize and express feelings, many different categories of random items (instruments, cars, farm equipment, dealing with construction, and different languages), and so much more.  I would recommend anyone to participate in this program and enjoy the little precious time we have with these little ones.

Demi Clinton

Kindermusik and Literacy

Before becoming a full-time, stay-at-home mom, I was an English and Spanish teacher to middle school students. I am passionate about the power of education to change the world, especially when it comes to giving our kids literacy skills.

At my daughter’s preschool “Get Acquainted Day,” the other day, I picked up a brochure titled “Raising a Reader, Raising a Writer: How Parents Can Help.” Of course, it caught my eye—I’m a sucker for how-to lists that may help me be a better parent. The pamphlet was published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which “serve(s) and act(s) on behalf of the needs, rights and well-being of all young children with primary focus on the provision of educational and developmental services and resources.” Among other things, they offer accreditation to various preschools throughout the nation, requiring that those schools meet certain policies. To be clear, whether a school is NAEYC accredited does not make the difference between a good preschool and a bad one (it can be cost-prohibitive, for instance, for small preschools to fulfill all the obligations). However, it does mean that this pamphlet comes from a reputable source.

Certainly, sometimes when I read stuff like this, it can be a bit of a trigger for me. “Oh, great. More ways that I’m failing my kids.” But not this time! Though the list I include doesn’t reflect everything I read in the pamphlet, these are the bullet points that made me smile.

Talk, sing and play with your child: Talk as you do simple, everyday things together . . . recite nursery rhymes and do fingerplays, games, and action songs.

Choose books with care: Look for books that relate to what’s happening in the child’s life at the time • Slow down and have fun: Follow the child’s cues (while reading a story). . . . now and then try skipping an expected phrase to see if the child supplies it.

Read it again. . . & again: There’s a lot for a child to take in, and children need and want to go through a book more times than grownups can imagine.

So why did they make me smile? Because even though there’s laundry to do (all the time—does it ever STOP?), and even though I sometimes find myself on Facebook more often than I ought to be (Miss Carol’s posting some fantastic links these days that suck me in.), I know that participating in Kindermusik has been a great way for my kids to develop their literacy skills. At least in this regard, I feel like I’m able to set aside some of that ever-present mommy-guilt.

Because every time I sing “There once was a frog who lived in a bog,” I’m doing one of those fingerplays they suggest, and I’m singing and engaging with my kids. I know that the books that our studio chooses are quality storybooks. And since they relate to what we’re working on in Kindermusik, they’re helping to link my child’s real-life experience with the world in print. In Kindermusik we talk a lot about “following the child.” We take our kids where they’re at and build on their skills, rather than get frustrated at what they aren’t doing. This idea doesn’t pertain to moments when we’re on the carpet doing a play-along. It extends to everything we do, including story time. (If you’re in doubt about this, watch your child’s educator respond to the children’s cues next time they’re reading—you’ll see them pause, answer questions, and get just as excited as the child who shouts, “Hey! I have one of those at my house!”). Finally, we know that kids thrive on repetition. This is why some of our activities are repeated from week to week. It’s also why some of our activities are repeated, but with a twist.

Yes, I do work for the studio, so I’m paid to brag about them. However, I would do it for free. Kindermusik is more than a music class-it truly does support developing the whole of my child.