This study published in Journal of Research on Reading examines the correlation between musical skills and reading skills, and investigates whether musical training has a positive effect on reading ability. A total of 159 primary school children from eight classes in Germany participated in the study. Children in the experimental group received special musical training twice a week for eight months, while children in the comparison group had additional training in visual arts to the same extent as the musical training. A second comparison group did not receive any special training for the period of the study. Assignment to the different groups was randomised.
Pre-tests (a standardised test, a questionnaire that explored socio-economic background, and music and reading measurements) were conducted before the training began, and then reading skills and musical ability were tested again immediately after the training had been administered. Key findings were as follows:
Rhythmical abilities (the ability to differentiate between rhythmic patterns and tone lengths) were correlated significantly positively with decoding skills (both reading accuracy and reading prosody – the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech).
Tonal skills (discrimination of pitch and melodic/tonal patterns) were not correlated with reading skills.
The special musical training had a significant effect on reading accuracy in word reading.
Source: The Effects of Musical Training on the Decoding Skills of German-speaking Primary School Children (2013), Journal of Research in Reading.