Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Can Music Enhance School-Readiness Socioemotional Skills?

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Can Music Enhance School-Readiness Socioemotional Skills?

Article excerpt

This study examines the effects of a school-readiness music program on preschool children's socioemotional readiness to transition to kindergarten. Young children (N = 102) attending a preschool program (four classes) in a children's center run by a state university in the southwestern United States participated in this study. Two of the classes were assigned to the music school-readiness group and two classes were assigned to the control group (no music school-readiness curriculum). Baseline measures of children's development and readiness for school across multiple domains (cognitive, language, socioemotional, motor, self-help) were established before the implementation of the music program and the measures were readministered after the program to examine change over time. The study examined (1) the impact of the school-readiness music program on children's acquisition of social skills as reported by teachers and parents and (2) the impact of the program on teacher reporting of school readiness that include measures assessing language, learning, and self-help skills. The results indicated that the music group improved on the social skills (total score) and specifically on the social cooperation, social interaction, and social independence scales. Using music-based curriculum facilitates the learning of the social skills needed to transition to kindergarten.

Keywords: early childhood education, social-emotional learning, readiness, music

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School readiness, defined as a child's ability to successfully transition to kindergarten, has been a national education goal in the United States since the Charlottesville summit in 1989 declared that "All children in America will start school ready to learn" (National Education Goals Panel, 1991). And yet more than one third of preschoolers are still considered unprepared to transition into kindergarten, due to problems in behavioral and emotional skills (Knitzer, 2001). In fact, "approximately 10-15% of typically developing children have chronic mild to moderate levels of behavior problems" (Timm & Fox, 2006, p. 1). According to a 2002 report by the Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development Institute, "40% of preschoolers exhibit at least one antisocial behavior each day, 24% exhibit three or more per day and 10% exhibit six or more antisocial behaviors each day" (p. 7). Being ready to transition to school may mean less confusion and stress, along with fewer maladaptive behaviors. The importance of school-readiness skills was highlighted in Readiness: School, Family and Community Connections (National Center for Family and Community Connections With Schools, 2004), which indicated that children who get off to a good start in kindergarten tend to maintain that advantage as they progress through school. Because of this research showing the importance of school readiness, programs are needed that promote such skills in preschools.

WHAT ARE SCHOOL-READINESS SKILLS?

School readiness refers to "the social, political, organizational, educational, and personal resources that support children's success at school entry" (Piotrkowski, Botsko, & Matthews, 2000, p. 540). There are neighborhood, school, family, and child levels of readiness that need to be considered when addressing school readiness. The music-based school-readiness program specifically addresses the child's level of readiness and refers to the specific set of skills that help determine a child's overall "school readiness" or ability to transition to kindergarten. Piotrkowski et al. (2000) argued that school readiness consists of health and self-care, emotion and behavior regulation, interactions with and attitudes toward adults and children, effective communication of needs and feelings, an interest and engagement of the child in the world around them, motivation to learn, motor skills, cognitive knowledge, and ability to adjust to the kindergarten classroom's demands. …

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