[SOUND OF DRUMS]
That’s a preschool child beating a drum, in sync with an adult drummer. And here’s a preschooler who can’t find the rhythm.
(at www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu) find that the first child, who can match the drum beat, is more likely to have better early language skills and reading potential. The study is in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Kali Woodruff Carr et al, Beat synchronization predicts neural speech encoding and reading readiness in preschoolers]
Rhythm is a key factor in communication. Speech rhythm provides important cues for meaning. Babies pick up rhythms, and we all use it to help identify syllables and words. An inability to properly process speech and sound—and rhythm—appears to be associated with reading problems.
In the study, scientists tested 35 children between three and four years old. An adult drummer beat a tempo meant to mimic the speed of speech. Twenty-two children could beat along; 13 could not. The children who kept the beat were faster at naming objects and colors, had superior short-term auditory memory, and were better at rhythm and melody discrimination. These skills all are related to language and reading.
The researchers suggest that such a drumming test could identify children with early language and literacy challenges. And training could help the kids overcome those challenges—in part by learning to keep a beat.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]