Learning Music is Like Learning to Read

Learning music and learning to play an instrument is a long-haul activity. It’s like learning to read.

When children start out learning to read, they must start with basic building blocks, learning the letters and letter combinations, and their sounds. Then, they slowly put together sounds to form words. When they begin to read sentences, they cannot read fluently. They start and stop, processing each word.

It’s hard work and exhausting, at first. They don’t have the stamina to read extended passages, so books for beginning readers are very short. They may have one word or one sentence on each page. It can take years before a child is ready to read chapter books.

While some children may catch on to reading more quickly, no one is born a reader.

We hope that children become readers, that they catch the “reading bug” and find enjoyment in reading. We hope that, eventually, they will discover books on their own and that those books will activate their imaginations and satisfy their curiosity.

This is a long process. We don’t give it a few months to see if they “like” reading, because we know how long the process takes. Some may never develop the desire to pick up an unassigned book, but we give them the resources anyway.

Helping children learn to read and enjoy reading requires parents and teachers who understand the process of learning, who are patient and encouraging, who help children overcome frustration, who share inspiring books with children, and who model reading themselves.

All of this has a parallel in music.

Learning music is difficult, and it can take a great deal of time, even years, for a student to become proficient. Good teachers are patient and encouraging, help students work through their frustration, and celebrate progress. Parents and teachers can inspire students by introducing them to great pieces and modeling a love for music by attending concerts or playing or singing themselves.

I believe music is as valuable as reading, intellectually and culturally. It is worth an equal amount of investment in time and effort.

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