[Susan notes: 3 cheers for a music teacher who shows Reid Lyon a thing or two about his music metaphor.]
Published in Detroit News
Reid Lyon is correct in saying ("Aug. 8, 2004, "Expert Pinpoints What's Wrong with Nation's Reading Instruction" by Linda Seebach, Scripps Howard News Service) that children don't learn music just by being exposed to it. However, as a veteran school and private music teacher, I'd like to expand on this. True, you don't learn to play a musical instrument JUST by listening and watching other people play. However, there is a very good reason why Orff, Kodaly, and Suzuki music instruction begins with listening and involves a great deal of modeling, and that's because the first step of playing music is listening to it, at the active level, and participating in it. The next is imitation. ONLY after those steps are at an automatic level does any music teacher begin to teach music. Typically, music reading is not begun to be taught until about age 7.
If a child has not had experience feeling beat and rhythm, highs and lows, singing songs by imitation, clapping or playing rhythm instruments with music, moving to music, and generally listening to music, teaching them the lines and spaces of the scale and the basic keys to press on an instrument will, at best, create mechanical reproduction with little musical merit or understanding. At worst, it will create a child who is frustrated, convinced that he/she has no talent, and hates music. Music classes for primary children, whether they be on piano, violin or more general recognize this.
Is it too unreasonable to state that, yes, explicit instruction in reading is needed, AFTER the students have the prerequisite skills, and to recognize that many children enter school without those prerequisites? And, doesn't it then follow that reading programs for young children should do what a good music teacher does-that is, figure out where the child is and start from there, without ASSUMING that they are ready for explicit, systematic instruction in music reading?