Athletes and musicians know the importance of building muscle memory. That is why they practice over and over. The body's response should be automatic and not require thinking and remembering. When faced with a performance, the muscles should be used to doing the next step and therefore will continue in case of stage fright. I'm sure there is more science to it, but that is the gist.
I was recently reminded how strong this memory can be when a fellow teacher asked me to play 'Cat's Cradle' with her in class one day. I hadn't played in over 20 years, possibly even 30, but amazingly it came back to me after only a few false starts with the string. Within five minutes, I was able to get the cat whiskers and the witch's broom. And I did it all without thinking through the steps - my hands simply knew which way to go.
I was thinking about the power of muscle memory and reading. The girl just turned two years old and already she knows how to hold a book and turn the pages. When we read, I can see her eyes tracking the story from the left page to the right page. She has two favorite books that she can 'read' and tell almost all the words, based on the pictures. I'm hoping these early skills will stay with her and as she enters school, she can free up some of her memory to work on letters and sounds, rather than tracking and turning pages.
Some of the girl's favorites:
Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop by Anna Dewdney
Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow & Lenny Lipton
Pride & Prejudice: A Babylit Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams