Effectiveness of Music Education for the Improvement of Reading Skills and Academic Achievement in Young Poor Readers: A Pragmatic Cluster-Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial

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Cogo-Moreira, Hugo [UNIFESP]
Avila, Clara Regina Brandão de [UNIFESP]
Ploubidis, George B.
Mari, Jair de Jesus [UNIFESP]
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Introduction: Difficulties in word-level reading skills are prevalent in Brazilian schools and may deter children from gaining the knowledge obtained through reading and academic achievement. Music education has emerged as a potential method to improve reading skills because due to a common neurobiological substratum.Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of music education for the improvement of reading skills and academic achievement among children (eight to 10 years of age) with reading difficulties.Method:235 children with reading difficulties in 10 schools participated in a five-month, randomized clinical trial in cluster (RCT) in an impoverished zone within the city of So Paulo to test the effects of music education intervention while assessing reading skills and academic achievement during the school year. Five schools were chosen randomly to incorporate music classes (n=114), and five served as controls (n=121). Two different methods of analysis were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention: the standard method was intention-to-treat (ITT), and the other was the Complier Average Causal Effect (CACE) estimation method, which took compliance status into account.Results:The ITT analyses were not very promising; only one marginal effect existed for the rate of correct real words read per minute. Indeed, considering ITT, improvements were observed in the secondary outcomes (slope of Portuguese = 0.21 [p<0.001] and slope of math = 0.25 [p<0.001]). As for CACE estimation (i.e., complier children versus non-complier children), more promising effects were observed in terms of the rate of correct words read per minute [beta=13.98, p<0.001] and phonological awareness [beta = 19.72, p<0.001] as well as secondary outcomes (academic achievement in Portuguese [beta = 0.77, p<0.0001] and math [beta=0.49, p<0.001] throughout the school year).Conclusion:The results may be seen as promising, but they are not, in themselves, enough to make music lessons as public policy.
Plos One. San Francisco: Public Library Science, v. 8, n. 3, 8 p., 2013.