Newswise – Ancient, preliterate cultures kept their legends and traditions alive with the use of memorization. Many lengthy poems and epics that were eventually written down, such as the works of Homer in ancient Greece, were memorized first. Scholars think that many parts of the Bible were kept in memory for a considerable amount of time before being set down in writing. There?s one way in which we still rely on memorization: the alphabet song. A version of this little tune exists in almost every culture that has an alphabet, and it’s essential to teaching children (and illiterate adults) to read.

Canadian educator Patrick Walton noticed that when he added “jingle-like” singing to his curriculum, children learned more quickly and remembered new words much longer. In just four weeks, he had almost 75% of the children in his class reading, after only two 20-minute teaching sessions per week.

“There is almost no research relating singing to memory in young children, and none examining the effects of using children’s songs to teach pre-reading and reading skills,” says Walton. “Educators know, however, that sound presented in a rhythmic way, like poetry, is an aid to memory.

“Our findings are consistent with recent brain research indicating that there are separate but similar brain mechanisms implicated for language and music, and considerable areas that are common to both. The addition of music to the presentation of text may provide children with an alternate neural pathway to receive and process information.”

Special songs used were created especially for the study by Walton along with local musicians. Walton says, “The teaching songs need to have lyrics with rhyming words, one syllable long, and have a bouncy, pronounced rhythm. We were excited to find that 73% of the children could read words that were different from words they actually learned as lyrics, including an autistic child involved in the study. The strong positive effect with the autistic child was especially interesting.”

If you have kids in school, expect to hear more singing this year.

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