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“Singing to children may help development of language skills”

“Parents should sing to their children every day to avoid language problems developing in later life, according to a consultant. Too much emphasis in the early years is placed on reading, writing and numeracy, and not enough on the benefits of singing, according to Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology.
Singing traditional lullabies and nursery rhymes to babies and infants before they learn to speak, is an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing”, argues Blythe in a book.  Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the ‘signature’ melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child’s ear, voice and brain for language.”

I always knew it was a good thing to sing to my children (they didn’t always agree) – but perhaps I shouldn’t sing Eastern European or African songs, if Blythe is right.
Of course, some of this has been known for a long time. Peter, Paul & Mary claimed back in the 60s that every children’s song should have three characteristics: simplicity, so the child could understand the song; repetition, to lull the child into a false sense of security; and pathos, to prepare the child for future traumatic experiences. Nice to hear a neuro-developmental education consultant (sort-of) confirm it – but is there actually any evidence for these claims?
if you read the rest of the article, you’ll find that the book is The Genius of Natural Childhood, to be published by Hawthorn Press  – and that’s the real point of this article. It’s a public relations promotion for an upcoming book, with an interesting hook to get journalists to think it’s worth writing about. On my ‘psychology & media’ third year option, we’ve tracked lots of ‘psychology’ stories like this. Lots of what you hear about psychology in the papers/TV comes from smart PR releases, some of which are just entertaining made-up stuff, and some of which are honest reports of carefully-carried-out research. You have to make up your mind which to believe. Often the killer question is ‘what’s the evidence’?
You might remember that one of the sources of the general knowledge psychology myths mentioned when I discussed this in the Schools of Thought lecture was ‘the media’. This is one of the ways those myths arise/get repeated.

In sprite of all that, I’ll still remind my children how useful it was that I sang to them when they were little (they won’t put up with it now).


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