Jorge Arce grew up in Puerto Rico to the sounds of the conga drums, guitar, and accordian. Today, Arce is a professional singer, dancer, composer, and percussionist. He works as a performing arts teacher in the Boston public schools. We asked him to tell us about the role music plays in preparing young children for school.
[insert_object] FamilyEducation Network: How can music get kids interested in learning?
Jorge Arce: Kids love rhythm, sound, singing, and dancing. When you take something that kids enjoy and use it as a basis to teach them other things, then they will love to learn.
FEN: Let's say I'm the parent of a preschooler, and I want my child to learn her numbers and letters. Convince me that spending part of the schoolday on music is a good use of my child's time.
Arce: Music can help kids learn their numbers. After all, music is mathematical: It's made up of basic patterns that use numbers. Whenever kids keep the beat of a song, they count. And to know how long a note of a song should be, they count. When they get older, music can help them understand fractions.
Music can also help kids learn to read and write. Kids will learn words quickly if the words have a rhythm or a melody. Remember learning the ABC song? The rhymes in songs also help young children form the sounds they hear into groups. This helps them begin to read.
Music can help kids learn to communicate with each other. I always ask my kids to share a new song or dance with other kids and with me! When they teach others, they practice the skills of describing and explaining.
FEN: How can parents introduce their kids to music?
Arce: They can do two very important things: Expose their kids to lots of different styles of music, and participate in the experience with them.
You don't have to be an expert to teach your kids about music. If you own any CDs or recordings, then you already have professional musicians in your home! Together you can play records, CDs, tapes, and sing and dance. Talk to kids about what they like. Ask them to teach you the songs they've learned at school or through other social groups.
Go to the library in your community with your kids and borrow recordings. Ask for their help selecting new music when you buy CDs or tapes. If you have friends who play instruments, invite them over. Make this a musical experience for the whole family.