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Reading for Readiness
by Susan Gallander
When we think about elementary reading instruction, we tend to think about fiction text. We reminisce about our favorite childhood books and novels. Our minds drift to happy memories of reading old and new classics such as the Little House series, Magic Treehouse books, and the Boxcar Children. Understandably, we want to share our love of these favorite stories.
However, we must be mindful of the increasing importance of learning to read non-fiction text. Informational reading is an essential skill. Yet, a 2006 report found that only half of the students taking the ACT were prepared for college-level reading. This data only represents students that intend to attend college. The problem is probably larger than this study suggests. In addition to learning how to read informational text, students need the background knowledge that comes from reading informational text. Studies suggest that background knowledge accounts for as much as 33% of the variance in student achievement. (Marzano, 2000)
Not surprisingly, the CCSS is now recommending that half of students reading should be informational by the end of fourth grade. By the end of their senior year, students should spend 70% of their reading on nonfiction text. This is appropriate. To function well in college and careers, students must become adept at reading and comprehending informational texts. We live in the information age. Adults are asked to comprehend more than 100,000 words each day using their ears and eyes. Children need to build skills to manage and analyze the vast amount of information they receive.
And students enjoy reading non-fiction, informational text. Students like to learn about the world they live in. They are fascinated by books about science, animals, and sports. They love to learn the stories of great people and events. In the process, they learn how to effectively read informational text, absorb critical background knowledge, and prepare for a lifetime of information. We just need to change our mindset to embrace a wonderful world of reading informational text.
Marzano, R. J. (2000). A new era of school reform: Going where the research takes us. Aurora, CO: McREL.