A new look at Brain Research- The impact of music on reading fluency/prosody: A Video Interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito
In this interview Ann C. Kay, co-founder and Educational Coordinator of the Rock ‘n’ Read Project gives us an engaging and informative look at the topic of the impact of music on reading fluency and prosody. This was my very first blog interview done as a video, though I posted a video blog interview last week that was done after this one. That interview was time sensitive- it was about an upcoming Write to Learn speaker. Thanks to Ann for letting me post that first.
How Rock ‘n’ Read Came to Be
Ann begins by telling us she is a long-time music teacher. The saga began with a serendipitous discovery that a software product designed by Carlo Franzblau in Tampa Florida to help users improve singing accuracy, rhythm, and pitch had some amazing effects on reading. It turned out that one of the folks trying out the product, discovered that after a number of weeks of use that her daughter, who had been in special classes in reading, had shown marked improvement in reading fluency. This discovery began Ann’s journey of exploring how and why the product had the tremendous impact that it did.
Carlo Franzblau, the creator of the software program used by Ann, went to the University of South Florida, and engaged Dr. Susan Homan to study the effects of singing on reading achievement. The research by Dr. Homan indicated a year’s gain on average in reading after 13.5 hours of use of Franzblau’s software over 9 weeks. You can read about this research in the handouts that can be downloaded at this LINK. Ann and her partner Bill Jones were the co-founders of the Rock ‘n’ Read project. Bill decided to literally take the use of the software on the road. He turned a converted Metro Bus into a computer lab with 32 computers. Bill and Ann brought this into neighborhoods during the summer and thus was born the Rock ‘n’ Read Project. After the summer project she began using it in Minneapolis public schools- first with a $100,000 state grant and next with a $500,000 state grant for a pilot. She is currently nearing the end of that grant.
RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Ann then talked about the research that backs up the use of singing (and other things like repeated readings) to improve reading fluency/prosody. She is especially passionate about this topic. She is interested in spreading the word about this research, especially current research in neuroscience which indicates the importance of keeping a beat. She has advocated keeping the beat as an additional foundational skill in state ELA Standards. She notes that children who are unable to keep a beat are much more likely to have problems in reading.
She talked about the 50 plus studies in brain research that explored how the brain processes sound. Researchers have found that children who have trouble keeping a beat often have trouble with reading. One researcher, Dr. Kraus, found that playing music improves auditory processing, which in turn leads to improvement in reading performance. That is why Ann is lobbying that keeping a steady beat, which the researchers are saying is a foundational skill, should be included in the foundational skills in her state. See the handouts in the LINK for details.
Advice for Teaching
Ann indicates that she is a big fan of Rasinski’s work. His work includes not only singing, but also repeated readings, reading poetry, choral reading, nursery rhymes et. al. I have written before in this blog about Dr. Rasinski’s work and ideas. LINK1, LINK2, LINK3. She thinks his activities include the common characteristic of keeping a steady beat.
It turns out Ann teaches a course about using singing to develop other skills. She has been teaching that course since 2005. Included is not just singing but also singing games. Singing games go beyond singing and include the social/emotional development of students.
Ann singing & reading “Hush Little Baby” to her granddaughter
Dr. Sam’s Takeaways
I have spent most of the last 2 years blogging around the topic of the Reading Wars, the limits and limitations of various approaches and the need to find common ground and common practices. A constant theme has been to look at all the research. That includes the research around the brain. I view the research that Ann is calling to our attention as supporting the work of Tim Rasinski and as explaining, in part, why practices like repeated reading are successful. There is brain research to support them. I am a lover of music and do play guitar and sing as a personal hobby. But the kind of activities this research supports goes beyond just singing. The key is having repeated performances that include keeping a steady beat
Here is Ann’s contact information
Ann C. Kay, Minnetonka, MN firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Kay’s website—Center for Lifelong Music Making
Singing-based software program
Tune into Reading
Blog entry copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.
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