Music education for improving reading skills in children and adolescents with dyslexia

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Aug 15;(8):CD009133. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009133.pub2.


Background: Dyslexia (or developmental dyslexia or specific reading disability) is a specific learning disorder that has a neurobiological origin. It is marked by difficulties with accurate or fluent recognition of words and poor spelling in people who have average or above average intelligence and these difficulties cannot be attributed to another cause, for example, poor vision, hearing difficulty, or lack of socio-environmental opportunities, motivation, or adequate instruction. Studies have correlated reading skills with musical abilities. It has been hypothesized that musical training may be able to remediate timing difficulties, improve pitch perception, or increase spatial awareness, thereby having a positive effect on skills needed in the development of language and literacy.

Objectives: To study the effectiveness of music education on reading skills (that is, oral reading skills, reading comprehension, reading fluency, phonological awareness, and spelling) in children and adolescents with dyslexia.

Search methods: We searched the following electronic databases in June 2012: CENTRAL (2012, Issue 5), MEDLINE (1948 to May Week 4 2012 ), EMBASE (1980 to 2012 Week 22), CINAHL (searched 7 June 2012), LILACS (searched 7 June 2012), PsycINFO (1887 to May Week 5 2012), ERIC (searched 7 June 2012), Arts and Humanities Citation Index (1970 to 6 June 2012), Conference Proceedings Citation Index - Social Sciences and Humanities (1990 to 6 June 2012), and WorldCat (searched 7 June 2012). We also searched the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) and reference lists of studies. We did not apply any date or language limits.

Selection criteria: We planned to include randomized controlled trials. We looked for studies that included at least one of our primary outcomes. The primary outcomes were related to the main domain of the reading: oral reading skills, reading comprehension, reading fluency, phonological awareness, and spelling, measured through validated instruments. The secondary outcomes were self esteem and academic achievement.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors (HCM and RBA) independently screened all titles and abstracts identified through the search strategy to determine their eligibility. For our analysis we had planned to use mean difference for continuous data, with 95% confidence intervals, and to use the random-effects statistical model when the effect estimates of two or more studies could be combined in a meta-analysis.

Main results: We retrieved 851 references via the search strategy. No randomized controlled trials testing music education for the improvement of reading skills in children with dyslexia could be included in this review.

Authors' conclusions: There is no evidence available from randomized controlled trials on which to base a judgment about the effectiveness of music education for the improvement of reading skills in children and adolescents with dyslexia. This uncertainty warrants further research via randomized controlled trials, involving a interdisciplinary team: musicians, hearing and speech therapists, psychologists, and physicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Comprehension
  • Dyslexia / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Music Therapy / education*
  • Music*
  • Reading*