Other Research in the Field

A positive link between music education and early learning and language development has been noted since the 1950s, but according to Bolduc it is only in the past 12 years that exact cause and effect have been rigorously studied. Bolduc has published a literature review of the research in his field over the past 20 years in the peer-reviewed journal Early Childhood Research and Practice (http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v10n1/bolduc.html).

Bolduc’s research monograph, Placing Music at the Centre of Literacy Instruction, co-authored with his colleage Carole Fleuret, was featured in Making Research Come Alive by Stuart Foxman in the June 2010 issue of Professionally Speaking (http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/june_2010/features/research.aspx).

“There are plenty of people who look at the link between music and language from the psychological aspect, to see the effects on the brain,” says Bolduc. But, as far as he knows, the University of Ottawa’s Mus-Alpha Lab is the only place studying the specific effects on emergent literacy skills of combining early music training with explicit language teaching.

He cites work done by Graham Welch, who is Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education at the University of London, as an example of research into the psychological effects of music training on students. Welch was part of a team of researchers investigating the effects of the UK’s lottery-funded national Sing Up program, which worked to put singing on the curriculum in every school in Britain. The focus of that project was the effect of singing ability and interest on social inclusion. The team found, incidentally, that the singing training had positive side-effects on learning skills in academic areas.

The Sing Up web site is an excellent resource for teachers (www.singup.org).

The web site of the International Music Education Research Centre, which sponsored Sing Up, has information on other current UK research projects (www.imerc.org/imerc.php).

And finally, reports in both Canada and the US indicate that some children enter primary school with existing reading and writing difficulties (Statistique Canada, 1996; US National Institute for Literacy). They conclude that it would seem essential to find ways to introduce these young learners to written language before they begin their schooling. For Jonathan Bolduc and his colleagues, music education combined with specific early language learning is exactly what is needed to facilitate this process.