The Connection Between Literacy and Music

Have you ever heard a song come on, and the second you hear it your mind is instantaneously flooded with memories? Maybe you remember something from your childhood, or maybe it’s a song you haven’t heard in years but somehow you remember every single word. Have you ever wondered how you could always remember song lyrics, but not other (probably more important) information?

In a book by David Rubin, Memory in Oral Traditions, the author says, “Oral traditions depend on human memory for their preservation. If a tradition is to survive, it must be stored in one person’s memory and be passed on to another person who is capable of storing and retelling it.” He says that this must occur over many generations.

Okay, but what does that have to do with remembering song lyrics?

Traditions and tales that last through the years tend to include powerful visual images and they are typically sung or chanted. They employ multiple patterns of sound: assonance, alliteration, repetition, and rhyme. By using those patterns of sound, most of all rhyme, you are easily able to remember the text.

Another way that we remember text easily is through the use of mnemonics, which are powerful memory aids that have been developed over time. More than likely, you’ve used this strategy once or twice. One popular mnemonic in school is P.E.M.D.A.S.

Music also has the incredible ability to provoke positive emotion. Music can lead to the release of neurotransmitters that are associated with reward, such as dopamine. People use music in their everyday lives to regulate, enhance, and even diminish undesirable emotions (e.g. stress, fatigue). I use music on my morning drives to work ro wake me up, get me in a good mood, and make my morning commute more enjoyable. How do you use music in your life?

Music is powerful

Some call music a universal language, while others call it the window to the soul. Have you ever made a mix-tape for someone you had a crush on? You were using music to convey an emotion that you were feeling for that person. Nowadays, sharing music is much easier. Spotify has shareable playlists, Instagram allows you to add music to your stories now, and look at Tik Tok, creators from around the world are sharing music with each other. Music has taken an extremely important role in our society–and in our every day lives.

We use music as an extension of ourselves.

Music is a powerful form of expression. The world of education has not yet realized music’s potential to aid young learners and reduce the achievement gap that has not changed for over 30 years.

If music is so powerful, then why isn’t it being used in schools? Music evokes positive emotions, makes repetition fun, allows for diversity in genre, and fosters high retention and recall. It sounds like a no-brainer to me!

Here at Lyrics2Learn, we understand the importance of music. Our program uses music as a tool to get kids excited about reading. Students get to listen and read along (even sing along!) repeatedly and chorally with a diverse array of musicians, which allows them to emulate expression, pace and accuracy to develop reading fluency. The music heightens their engagement while the daily repetition, rhythm, and rhyme increases retention and background knowledge related to each weekly story. This allows students to more successfully understand, retain, and apply text.

Music and song have been effective tools for learning and communication that predate language.

“Music may be the activity that prepared our pre-human ancestors for speech, communication, and for the very cognitive, representational flexibility necessary to become humans.” – Daniel Levitin

Music is the universal language, yet it is increasingly more absent in today’s education. So let’s change that.

To hear more about how Lyrics2Learn implements music in reading, email us at

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