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How to Improve Sight Reading in Young Children

Can you learn music well without learning to read notes at an early age? Read on.


We would like to share our experiences about score reading. The concept to introduce here is emergent literacy. It means if you read or expose your children to enough written music materials, they will figure out many things about the notes, pitch and rhythm before they even turn seven, the age of going to Primary 1. Current research and our MIM graduates have shown that such training must be done at an early age for better effect. These young children can definitely do more than just music & movement and music appreciation.

To facilitate this process, flashing scores to them is a good and proven way, knowing that: children are, by nature, pattern seekers. On their own, they uncover features that make up the scores and able to transform what they see into sound they hear. This same rule applies to learning or reading a language as well. Parents usually will read with their children, showing them the pictures and words when they read; music literacy attainment is the same as language learning.

Parents are encouraged to work together with teachers, to sing often to their children, using piano book/scores or flashcards to give a good environment to encourage and stimulate this emergent music literacy process. Score reading (part of our eye training in MIM®) must go hand in hand with other training like ear training (imitation playing, perfect / relative pitch), memory training, aural & musicianship, theory etc. All these trainings will bring out the best in a young child in their instrumental learning. They will be more musical, be able to hear themselves (and others if they play together in an ensemble), understand what they are playing, be able to learn new repertoires faster, in short be a master of their instruments instead of just good “technicians” operating their instruments.

Some tips to help children to recognize notes and improve their sight reading skills?

(a) Playing with flashcards on notation has been proven to be one of the best ways to help children recognize notes from different clefs. You can play ‘snap’ cards or ‘matching game’ with children. Getting children to participate fully in a game, not only engaging them but also involve you in their learning to promote bonding and involvement in their intellectual growth.

(b) Understanding of lines and spaces: asking children to play with magnetic board with staves, using 5 fingers to represent the 5 lines on the staves help to quicken their reaction and work on their brain imaging ability to spot and recognize the position of notes on the staves.

(c) Approaching this objective using a holistic manner: hands-on game, visual training, ear training to let children recognize their own style of learning, either visual, tactile and aural approach.


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