Dr Jeannie van der Linde is an associate professor and the Head of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, University of Pretoria. Her research is focussed on improving early childhood development through innovative approaches in low income communities.
“Effect of music instruction on phonological awareness and early literacy skills of five- to seven-year-old children”
The study evaluated the effect of varying durations of music instruction exposure, over a single academic year, on PA and early literacy of young children (five to seven years old). More music instruction did not result in a significant transfer effect on PA and early literacy in young children within a single academic year.
Multiple studies and systematic reviews have shown that music instruction improves phonological awareness (PA) and early literacy skills in young children. However, when the outcomes of individual studies are grouped in meta-analyses the significance of the transfer effect is reduced.
The study evaluated the effect of varying durations of music instruction exposure, over a single academic year, on PA and early literacy of young children (five to seven years old). Based on the duration of exposure, participants were assigned to low- or high-exposure groups. Additionally, 17 age-matched pairs were compared.
Results & Discussion
The post-intervention PA and music ability scores showed no significant difference between low- and to high-exposure groups after a single academic year of music instruction. These results appear to align with the findings of the meta-analysis by Sala & Gobet (2017) which indicates that there is no transfer effect from music to cognitive-related tasks.
The high-exposure group showed significant within-group improvements in five out of six PA subtests while the low-exposure only showed significant changes in two PA subtests. Differences in within-group improvements could potentially be a result of the high-exposure group’s greater exposure to music instruction, although changes were insufficient to result in significant between-group differences.
Age-matched pair comparisons were investigated to control for maturation and showed no significant differences post-intervention.
This study indicated that more music instruction did not result in a significant transfer effect on PA and early literacy in young children within a single academic year. Within-group comparisons, however, identified more PA improvements in the high-exposure group than in the low-exposure group. Longer durations of exposure to music instruction, of at least two years are required to conclusively evaluate the effect on PA and early literacy developments
Associations between phonological awareness and pitch, rhythm- and speech-in-noise discrimination in young children
This research aimed to determine if there are associations between phonological awareness abilities and pitch, rhythm- and SiN discrimination in children aged five- to seven-years old. Significant associations were identified between PA subtests and less linguistically loaded measures of pitch, rhythm and SiN discrimination. Pitch and diotic SiN discrimination predicted phoneme-grapheme correspondence, a strong predictor of later literacy abilities.
Phonological awareness (PA) requires the complex integration of language, speech and auditory processing abilities, such as speech-in-noise (SiN) discrimination. Music instruction increases the auditory system’s ability to overcome the impact of background noise. Possible associations between auditory discrimination, music abilities and PA exist but are not yet fully defined. This research therefore aimed to determine and describe the possible associations between PA abilities and pitch, rhythm- and SiN discrimination in young children.
The pitch, rhythm and SiN discrimination and PA abilities of 41 participants between the ages of five- and seven-years old were evaluated. The Spearman rank correlation was used to identify associations between variables and linear regression analysis was used to identify possible predictors for PA.
No significant correlations were identified between pitch and rhythm discrimination and any SiN discrimination results. Significant positive correlations of medium strength were identified between PA subtests and music discrimination variables. Pitch discrimination was the music ability most often associated with PA and was a significant predictive variable for three of the seven PA subtests. Significant negative correlations of medium strength were also identified between PA subtests and SiN discrimination variables. SiN discrimination values were predictive for five of the seven PA subtests. The combination of pitch and diotic SiN discrimination was the best fitting model identified and was a predictor of phoneme-grapheme correspondence (PGC) (p < .0001, R = 0.4213). Conclusion Significant associations were identified between PA and less linguistically loaded measures of pitch, rhythm and SiN discrimination. Additionally, pitch and diotic discrimination predicted PGC, identified as the single best predictor of later literacy abilities. The application of pitch, rhythm and SiN discrimination measure as possible screeners for PA difficulties or components of PA remediation programs should be evaluated in future research.