New Book Explores the Numerous Benefits of Music Education for Young Children

Author Maureen Harris

How can we ensure young children receive the best possible start in life? What will that life of tomorrow look like, and what role can we as educators and parents play in this rapidly changing global environment?

In her new book Music & the Young Mind, Maureen Harris explores those questions, suggesting that young children must develop the skills and tools to grow into creative, capable, and empathetic citizens of the future.

Harris is a music teacher at the Children’s House Montessori School in Ontario, Canada. She believes that by unleashing the creativity in young children through musical expression, educators and parents can lay the foundations for a more sustainable, equitable and caring world.

“One can only imagine the potential for the future when music and creativity are once again interwoven into the daily lives of our children and their children,” she says.

With research-based facts, the author builds a case in support of the crucial need for music in the lives of children from birth, and offers the tools and support to put such education in the hands of educators—musicians and non-musicians alike.

The book includes a developmentally-appropriate month-by-month-music curriculum for an entire school year with lesson plans and extension exercises for the older and more advanced child. Suggestions are offered for the pre-service teacher, experienced teacher, and musician or classroom teacher followed by a resource guide.

A key component of the curriculum are the accompanying CDs sung in pure tone in a child-appropriate vocal range. Even the least confident teacher will gain confidence as he or she sings along with the CDs, follows the easily laid out tracks for each month, and uses suggested percussion instruments and activities.

Much of the material in the book comes from her teaching experiences at the Children’s House, so she has a sense of what reaches her young students and what does not. For example, the book discusses how integral movement is to early childhood music education.

Harris knows firsthand the benefits of music at a young age. She grew up in Ireland in a home where everyone, from her parents to her siblings, performed music ranging from choral selections to opera to Jimi Hendrix compositions on an electric guitar. She played piano at an early age and later performed in musical theater.

She said music has made her life richer, and she wants music educators to have the tools to share those rich experiences with their students.

“Our children are growing up in a global world. Any possible tool we can give to understand that world is important. Music helps broaden the horizons of young children from a early age,” she said.

Music and the Young Mind is available from Rowman & Littlefield Education (RLE) in paperback for $32.95 and clothbound for $85.00. MENC members receive a discount of 25%. To order or for more information, call 800-462-6420 or visit RLE Web site. Visit MENC Resources for author interviews and more information on books copublished by MENC and RLE.

Harris answered additional questions about her book.

Q: What do you believe is the biggest misconception most people have about how young children learn?

A: One of the most common misconceptions is that really young children can’t learn or that they don’t retain anything. That’s not true. They are so quick, like little sponges, and if you give young children a music foundation, they will carry that forward with them.

Q: Is there a wider audience for your book as well? 

A: I think it would be helpful for not only pre-service, music and classroom teachers, but also parents, since it includes the CD and parents can play it for infants or young children in the car or at home.

 —Roz Fehr, July 16, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education