Although the human brain is an incredible thing, for all its wonders, it also has a few weaknesses — not being able to spend large amounts of time focusing on a single thing is definitely one of them.
While you may be consciously focusing on reading this article, your brain has an unconscious system that constantly monitors your environment for anything it deems significant. This is, no doubt, an evolutionary tactic — what’s the point in focusing all your attention on a cave painting if the saber-toothed tiger that just strolled in behind you is about to ruin your day?
Although your conscious attention can be focused on whatever you choose, your unconscious system literally has a mind of its own, is constantly scanning your environment, and most importantly, never takes a rest. This can make it very hard for you and your little ones to stay focused on one thing.
By filling your environment with music — and soundscapes, in particular — you’re effectively canceling out your unconscious system’s ability to distract you. Assuming you or your kids are not too worried about saber-toothed tigers, a background soundtrack enables you to forget about all those little bumps and creaks that would normally break your focus.
benefits of Soundscapes
When it comes to avoiding distractions, although music is a useful option, it can potentially be a distraction on its own — it’s hard to focus on your reading if you keep standing up and miming along to a guitar solo. Natural soundscapes, on the other hand, rarely come with guitar solos.
Whether it’s the sound of rain, a crackling fireplace, a roaring ocean, or a babbling brook, soundscapes have long been associated with relaxation and getting a good night’s sleep. However, recent studies have found that soundscapes enhance an individual’s focus, concentration, cognitive performance, and energy levels.
Another area the human brain hasn’t quite mastered yet is the processing of abstract information. Although children have some of the foundations for abstract thinking, their thought processes are largely concrete in nature — dependent upon what they directly experience.
In this respect, listening to soundscapes can greatly enhance a child’s abstract processing — a vital skill when it comes to understanding what they’re reading. Essentially, if they’re reading a book about pirates, the sound of waves, seagulls, and creaking ropes will help them with their concentration and understanding.
What’s more, the benefits that arise from soundscapes in terms of cognitive ability, focus, and increased energy are interrelated. What this means in practice is that an improvement in one area has a knock-on effect in the others. If your child finds themselves more immersed in a book as a result of a soundscape, not only will their focus increase but their enjoyment of the book will invariably result in improved comprehension.
Rebel Girls Soundscapes
In a bid to enhance your child’s reading habits, Rebel Girls has released an extensive range of soundscapes that are available through the Rebel Girls app. Our soundscapes are 30 minutes long and cover a wide range of topics — from nature to city soundtracks. Offering a far more interesting and immersive experience than just raindrops and a crackling fireplace, our soundscapes have been created with a far more ‘bespoke’ feel in mind.
To help get you and your child started, we have soundscape pairing suggestions that can be used in conjunction with a number of titles on the American Library Association’s summer reading list for children.
● If you’re reading Partly Cloudy by Tanita S. Davis, you might want to try our rainy day soundscape.
● For something a little more high-tech, try reading Katie Zhao’s Last Gamer Standing while listening to our computer soundscape.
● When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is a science fiction mystery that pairs very effectively with the Rebel Girls city soundscape.
● If you’re in the mood for something a little more creepy, try reading Small Spaces by Katherine Arden alongside our spooky night soundscape.
All these soundscapes and many more can be found in the Rebel Girls app.
The Greater Good
When it comes to staying focused, it’s not just about reading. Soundscapes can be effective tools in all kinds of situations that require concentration. How many times have you told your children to tidy up their room or to “hurry up and get ready”? It’s quite possible that tidying up a room can be done far quicker in a jungle or a tropical storm and that getting ready to go out can be improved in much the same way.
That said, it’s important to note that personal preference needs to play a large role in the soundscape process. While the sound of a jungle might be good for you, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. In this respect, soundscapes are much like music — as hard as it is to believe, not everyone loves The Beatles.
And there you have it. While soundscapes might not quite be your own personal theme tune, they may well help you and your children concentrate on what’s important.
If you’d like to know more about Rebel Girls soundscapes and how they help inspire children in all kinds of wonderful ways, check out our app.