Music and Literacy: There is a Connection!

Music and Literacy: There is a Connection!

Motivating General Music Lessons that Also Reinforce Students Reading Achievement

By NAfME member Dr. Sharon T. Doyle


The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) states: “[S]uccessful participants in this 21st century global society must:

  • develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose [sic] and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.”

Read more about what literacy is in the 21st century in this article by Bruce Deitrick Price published in American Thinker.

This is the current definition of what teachers of English see as the definition of literacy. In school, the meaning seems to shrink by volumes to “literacy is reading and sometimes writing.” See the problem?


literacy cyano66


To further complicate the issue, most of us don’t even question the fact that reading is not a content area – it is a skill. In order to read well for meaning, the presence of content, motivation, and engagement is required.

How about using music, a discipline that is content rich, crosses multiple subjects, serves as a means of communication, and involves skills as part of the process?

Wow! How about using music, a discipline that is content rich, crosses multiple subjects, serves as a means of communication, and involves skills as part of the process? We, as music teachers who are effective and engaging individuals, must embrace reading. We need it as much as the English Language Arts teacher, but we must also help students expand their definition of literacy and stop the narrowing of the curriculum to only a skill lesson.

Review the NCTE definition once again. You can’t deny that music fits beautifully into that definition, and it sure sounds a lot better than “literacy is reading and sometimes writing.”

How might this happen?

In my session at NAfME’s 2016 National In-Service Conference you will learn:

  • Strategies that support literacy in the context of music
  • Some samples for Read-Alouds for the music room
  • Music activities you can use to support children’s language learning (phonemes, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension)
  • How to build a literacy toolbox in music
  • How to use music as an important discipline as part of a well-rounded education
  • How to build higher quality music lessons using research and reading as strategies for building content
  • How to increase critical analysis and reflective skills

Join me on Friday, 11:30AM in Austin 1-3 of the Gaylord Texan for a lively discussion as I challenge the best music teachers in the country to embrace being a literacy teacher and a music teacher and be great at both.


About the author:

Sharon Doyle

NAfME member Dr. Sharon Doyle currently teaches general music, arts infusion and is a grant manager at Woodland Heights Elementary School in Spartanburg District 6, an Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) site. She has taught orchestra at all levels and has been an administrator in Spartanburg District #6 & #7 with over thirty years in the public school system. She has also taught as an adjunct professor at USC Upstate, Converse College, and Centre College of Kentucky. She has served as a grant reader for the State Dept. Arts Curricular grants, served on the writing and curriculum teams for standards development, and held multiple offices in SCMEA in the orchestra division on the executive board. She is currently the treasurer of the orchestra division and the conference chair on the executive board.

She completed her doctoral dissertation from North Central University in Prescott, Arizona on the correlation of quality fine arts to test scores in South Carolina using every elementary 3-5 grade school score as her data set. The research confirmed significantly that quality fine arts programs correlate to higher reading scores, correlated to an improved negative effect of poverty on scores, and presented a marginal effect on improved math scores. With the rise of literacy and reading as the critical field identified in education, Dr. Doyle wishes to share her ideas on what she thinks will work.


Sharon Doyle will be presenting on her topic “Music and Literacy:  There is a Connection” at the 2016 NAfME National In-Service Conference this November in Grapevine, TX! Register today!

music education

Join us for more than 100 innovative professional development sessions, nightly entertainment, extraordinary performances from across the country, and tons of networking opportunities with over 3,000+ other music educators! Learn more and register today: And follow the hashtag #NAfME2016!

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

Brendan McAloon, Marketing and Events Coordinator, November 7, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (