Why is some music more intrinsically interesting than other music?
A researcher did an experiment with a piece of modern music which did not repeat phrases. The researcher “rewrote” the piece to repeat sections. Nothing new was added, but certain parts were repeated, like the “Ee-I-ee-I-oh” in “Old MacDonald had a farm.
Then the unfamiliar piece was listened to, both in its original form and in its rewritten form. The “jury” liked the rewritten part better.
Why? Our brains love patterns, whether the patterns are parts of a musical piece or rhyming sounds at the ends of verses or the red and white stripes on a flag.
For children too young to read and for beginning readers, singing songs with patterns is an educational skill which can prepare them for later reading.
Suppose they are singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” The first three words repeat, as do the words “Merrily, merrily, merrily.” The repetition makes the words and the song easier to remember. Remembering is an important reading skill—remembering sight words, remembering letter sounds, remembering word meanings, remembering the meaning of the beginning of a sentence when you get to the end.
In the same song, “stream” and “dream” rhyme at the ends of the second and fourth lines. Rhymes like this are the earliest form of figurative language that children encounter. Even little children can appreciate the cleverness of expressing ideas in rhyme, though they like rhymes mostly because rhymes make songs fun.
Patterns in songs help children recognize that songs have a sequence of expression. We don’t sing “Merrily, merrily, merrily” before we sing “Row, row, row.” There is a rightness and a wrongness of putting a song together. Certain ideas come first and other ideas come later. The same is true of stories. A beginning comes before an ending.
Singing with your child is fun, but it is more than that. It’s building a foundation for the child’s thinking and reading future.