Music: An Early Literacy Boost for Little Ones

Music is an important form of communication for little ones. Parents’ lullabies teach babies a sense of trust and love that helps them learn that life is safe and comforting. Music teaches toddlers that the world is a fun and exciting place to live.   When little ones kick their legs, wave their arms, babble, and smile while parents sing to them, they are giving important cues to their parents. Adults who respond by smiling back and continuing to sing or chant are telling them, “We understand that you like this, and we are going to do it some more just for you.” 

Children learn the sounds of language when they are exposed to easy, repetitive songs, chants and nursery rhymes.  For example, “Rain, Rain Go Away” has a simple three-note range. Why is this important? Children learn how language is structured when adults talk, read, and sing to them and encourage them to talk. Children instinctively listen to music and try to identify familiar melodies and rhythms, just as early readers look for words that sound alike, have patterns, or rhyme (Jalongo & Ribblet, 1997).

Babies recognize familiar melodies before they understand the meanings of words, and they use their cooing and babbling as musical conversation before they can talk. (Mangione, 1995b).  As they grow, children have fun discovering how to make many different sounds and then using those sounds to pretend (such as talking for a stuffed animal). When parents responds to this, children start to learn turn- taking as well as cause and effect (“I made my little cow say moooooo, please. I think that means pet me, please, and then Mommy came over and petted my little cow.”).
(The rest of the article will be added in a later blog post)

©Linda Kimura, MA “The Ukulele Baby Lady” November 2004

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