The combined results of 30 studies indicate that music instruction has a significant positive effect on reading.
Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 2008
Longfellow called it "the universal language of mankind," and Confucius believed it to be "a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without." It exists in every world culture, and scientists believe it may predate human speech. During March, schools across the country are celebrating it by taking part in MIOSM, better known as "Music in Our Schools Month." Our brains are wired to respond to sound and to have a powerful emotional connection to music, so it's only natural that it should be part of our school curriculum. Young children respond instinctively to its elements — chanting, singing, and dancing are part of the natural rhythm and play of early childhood. Songs and rhymes are also handy mnemonic devices — most of us probably first memorized our ABCs by singing that famous song! For young adults in the throes of adolescence, music is the perfect place for the neurochemical pyrotechnics of the teenage brain to find an outlet.
Music classes no longer consist of only preparing students for a concert. While that is a worthy activity in itself for aesthetic value as well as life-skill development, it is not the only learning that is happening. As a veteran music instructor, my own methods have changed over the years to adapt to the instructional needs of our students. Language development and reading skills are enhanced in the music classroom. Lyrics are often accompanied by movement and visuals to assist in comprehension. Poetic form is marked by the musical form. The steady beat assists students with reading fluency. All of these reading strategies assist not only the English language learner, but all learners.