Humans’ innate love of music is somewhat of a mystery. We know it helps with memory and can have soothing effects. However, one study uncovered something we all may have been missing: music education actually helps children with their language skills, even more than reading. But how?

Inside The Study

A study from MIT recruited 74 children between the ages of 4 and 5 years old. The objective of the study was to test how their developing language skills may or may not be affected by taking piano and reading lessons.

The participants were separated into three groups. The control group carried on with normal lesson plans, while the other two groups were supplemented with extra academic lessons. Of the two supplemented groups, one received piano lessons while the other group of children was given reading lessons. Six months later, the results shocked the researchers.

Surprising Results

While the children in the groups without supplemental classes remained the same, the children who were given piano lessons out-performed the control and reading lesson groups. The researchers tested the children’s ability to discriminate words based on consonants, vowels, and tone and were amazed at what they found.

The children who took piano lessons were able to tell the difference between words that were only one consonant apart better than their peers who were supplemented with reading lessons. But what does this tell us?

Meaningful Music

“There are positive benefits to piano education in young kids, and it looks like for recognizing differences between sounds including speech sounds, it’s better than extra reading,” said Robert Desimone, the director of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research who helped conduct the study.

“That means schools could invest in music and there will be generalization to speech sounds,” Desimone continued. “It’s not worse than giving extra reading to the kids, which is probably what many schools are tempted to do—get rid of the arts education and just have more reading.”

Thanks to this study, more schools may hopefully see the benefits of music education and receive the funding to broaden their curriculum.