Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

The Magic of Popular Songs: A Case Study of Music Mediated Early Language Development

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

The Magic of Popular Songs: A Case Study of Music Mediated Early Language Development

Article excerpt


This article reports on an ethnographic study of the acquisition of language skills of a Chinese young girl. Using the notion of playful learning and mediation theory as theoretical framework, this inquiry explores how the experiences of Chinese popular songs in the domain of home contribute to children's language learning. Through an examination of the music participation of the Chinese young girl, this study reveals what language skills are fostered, and in what ways these language skills are developed. The language skills developed through music participation are reflected in print-based language tasks. It is suggested by the study that popular songs be integrated into family language education as one of the myriad ways that household supports children's early language development.

Key words: Popular songs; Mediation; Playful learning; Early language development

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Parents are often reminded that if they read to their children every night, their children will grow up to be readers, tend to love literature, and most likely experience academic success in school. There are many studies to back up the claim that reading to children has a positive effect on reading achievement and language ability later in life (Crain-Thoreson & Dale, 1992; Edwards, 2004; Morrow, 2001; Wells, 1985). For instance, bed time reading is an indicator of children's language development and cognitive styles (Heath, 1982). Storytelling has a predictive value on the development of children's narrative production as one facet of children's language development (Stavans & Goldzweig, 2008). Hence, parents are encouraged to read regularly to their children from the time children are very young. Although the importance of parent-child reading has been documented, it is not a universal practice. Parents' literacy habits and levels affect their beliefs and attitudes about children's literacy and language development; and parental reading beliefs are associated with the types of literacy and language activities that parents engage in with their children (DeBaryshe, 1995). Parents who place less value on reading may provide less support for children's literacy and language development through reading. Mui and Anderson suggest that parents and educators "think more broadly and inclusively about family literacy" (2008, p.234). Hence, it is necessary to explore the multiple pathways to language development.

In this case study, I present popular songs as a variation of the ways in which families engage in and support children's early language development. Building on the notion of playful learning, I discuss the advantage of music participation in young children's language development, and suggest an alternative perspective to language learning in the early childhood. Employing the theory of mediation, I illustrate how the experiences and activities of popular songs at home mediate to foster children's language skills, and propose an incorporation of popular songs into family language education for young children.


1.1 Playful Learning

Educational practices need an integration of play and playfulness (Wood, 2010). On the one hand, play is an indispensable part of our childhood. It is "the leading source of development in preschool years" (Vygotsky, 1967, P. 6). When children play in an environment filled with learning resources, they become familiar with the uses of literacy (Brooker, 2010). On the other hand, the need to be playful is essential to children's intellectual growth, and "being playful allows children to ensure that an activity is meaningful to them" (Ring, 2010, p. 114). Thus it is important to make a child perceive an activity as play and consequently take a playful approach, as this helps harness intrinsic qualities such as motivation, enthusiasm, self-preservation, willingness and engagement (Howard, 2002). …

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