Register, Dena, Alice-Ann Darrow, Jayne Standley and Olivia Swedberg. 2007. The Use of Music to Enhance Reading Skills of Second Grade Students and Students With Reading Disabilities. Journal of Music Therapy 44, (1) (Spring): 23-37.


This study assesses the impact of music curriculum on the reading skills of second grade, public school students with specific learning disabilities in reading. Pre- and post-reading assessments were conducted, with a treatment class receiving the music curriculum compared with a control class that only participated in their normal reading program. Both treatment and control classes made gains on the reading comprehension subtest, but neither improved significantly. The treatment class showed greater gains than the control class on all three subtests, with significantly greater gains in the word knowledge subtest.

Key Findings:

  • Results indicated that students with specific learning disabilities improved significantly from pretest to posttest on all three subtests.
  • Both the treatment and control classes improved significantly from pretest to posttest for word decoding, word knowledge and test total. Neither class improved significantly on reading comprehension.
  • The treatment class made greater gains than the control class on all three subtests.

Significance of the Findings:

Results indicated that the treatment was effective, with greater gains in reading comprehension. The authors state that, even for greater gains in the treatment class that are not statistically significant, “reading comprehension is key to learning in all subject matter, and any improvement is likely to be beneficial to students.”


Sixteen second-grade students were randomly assigned to the control class, and 17 were assigned to the treatment class. All eight students with specific learning disabilities in reading were in the treatment class. The music curriculum in the treatment class included word knowledge, word decoding and reading comprehension elements, with both passive and active music components. Students participated in 12 lessons over four weeks. Each lesson included at least one music activity that taught and practiced a reading strategy. Pre-and post-Gates-MacGintie Reading tests were administered to evaluate reading competence.

Limitations of the Research:

As this study was conducted over four weeks toward the end of the school, an extended curriculum may have provided more extensive results. Intact classes were used, rather than randomized classes, so teacher effect and homogeneity could play a part in the results.

Although an emphasis is placed on students with specific learning disabilities, all eight students participated in the treatment class, and no students participated in the control class. There is a very small sample size for all components of research, and findings show sparse statistical significance.

Questions to Guide New Research:

  • If a special focus is given to students with specific learning disabilities, what would findings show about music curriculum intervention if students participated in both the control and treatment groups?
  • Would a study extension from four weeks to six weeks alter results?
  • Would additional emphasis on transferring work knowledge skills to reading comprehension alter results?
  • Would randomly assigning students, rather than using intact classrooms for study, alter results?