Circle Time: How Bouncing a Baby Leads to Reading Proficiency

By Maryann "Mar" Harman M.A. Ed., BA Music
Founder, Music with Mar, Inc.

Stimulation in the form of movement and sensory experiences is necessary during the early years.  (Greenbough & Black; Shatz, 1992).

Innately, when holding a baby, we bounce it. The baby's face lights up and that is usually followed by sounds of pleasure. In this picture, you can see the infant already focused on the mom's face. You may think you are just bouncing a baby. BUT that baby is internalizing rhythm which will one day lead to reading proficiency.

Here is a blog I found that breaks down all the wonderful things rocking a baby will do: Why rocking a baby is so important.

During the first year of life, rhythm is the element of music that has the greatest effect. Dr. John Ortiz, author of Nurturing Your Child with Music

Students with good rhythmic performance ability can more easily detect and differentiate between patterns in math, music, science, and the visual arts.  “Rhythm is seen as key to man’s evolutionary development,” Students who are rhythmically skilled also tend to better plan, sequence, and coordinate actions in their daily lives. “Cassily Column,” TCAMS Professional Resource Center, 2000. All this begins with rocking the baby!!!!

The need for balance, gravity is more compelling than our need for food, touch or even mother-child bond.  (Fjordbo, 1995).

This brain fact is the reason why babies will bounce themselves if they don't receive that stimulation from anyone else. The bouncing helps the baby to find its center of gravity which leads to walking. Rhythm is necessary to walk and talk.

It is a fundamental part of development to be able to find and keep a steady beat. Phyllis Weikart has done extensive studies on this topic. In 1998, Dr. Weikart found that less than 10% of students could keep a steady beat for one minute. This competency should be in place by age 2 or 3 and definitely before Kindergarten. Steady beat helps organize breathing, walking, dancing patterns, and assists us to make patterns of our incoming sensory information and learn easily. (Rodriguez, 1999). 

English is the only unmetered language making it all the more important to ground English with a steady beat. (Weikart, 1998). Another reason to rock our babies!

120 infants (5-24 months) were more engaged in rhythm-play stimuli than with speech-only stimuli.  Zentner & Eerola , ‘10

This grandmother is rocking, smiling and stimulating that tiny brain. In this picture, it's hard to tell who is getting the better benefit! 

Touch is 10 times more important than verbal or emotional contact. (Ackerman, 1990). 
When babies do not get this stimulation, they can become delayed. Dr. Becky Bailey has designed songs and activities that aid in adult/child bonding.  Here are some resources for those who want to use music for bonding and rocking but aren't quite sure where to look. The I Love You Rituals are used worldwide and have been proven to benefit the entire being.  Another good resource is Mr. Al. This link will take you to his CD "Rock the Baby". Miss Jackie is world renown for her songs and activities for baby’s brains. The Music with Mar. shopping cart is also full of songs for bonding and playing. 

Something so simple as holding a baby and gently moving it back and forth leads to lifelong benefits. In closing, I'd like to share this video with you.  It is how we close every Music with Mar. Class. Parents over the last 18 years have told me they still cherish the memory of dancing to:                                                               
                                                         "You Are the Best Baby in the World".


Maryann “Mar.” Harman MA Ed/BA Music

Founder, Music with Mar., Inc.