Monday, March 12, 2012

Kids learn how to read better with nonfiction.

Two years ago, I posted this: "Could teaching nonfiction as literature improve American kids' reading ability?"

The answer seems to be: "Yes." The New York Times reports:

Children in New York City who learned to read using an experimental curriculum that emphasized nonfiction texts outperformed those at other schools that used methods that have been encouraged since the Bloomberg administration’s early days, according to a new study to be released Monday.

For three years, a pilot program tracked the reading ability of approximately 1,000 students at 20 New York City schools, following them from kindergarten through second grade. Half of the schools adopted a curriculum designed by the education theorist E. D. Hirsch Jr.’s Core Knowledge Foundation. The other 10 used a variety of methods, but most fell under the definition of “balanced literacy,” an approach that was spread citywide by former Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, beginning in 2003.

The study found that second graders who were taught to read using the Core Knowledge program scored significantly higher on reading comprehension tests than did those in the comparison schools.

It also tested children on their social studies and science knowledge, and again found that the Core Knowledge pupils came out ahead. . . .

Under the balanced literacy approach, which was used by seven of the comparison schools and remains the most popular method of teaching reading in the city’s schools, children are encouraged to develop a love of reading by choosing books that are of interest to them. Teachers spend less time directing instruction, and more time overseeing students as they work together.

Reading nonfiction writing is the key component of the Core Knowledge curriculum, which is based on the theory that children raised reading storybooks will lack the necessary background and vocabulary to understand history and science texts. While the curriculum allows children to read fiction, it also calls on them to knowledgeably discuss weather patterns, the solar system, and how ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia compare.


Banshee said...

While obviously nonfiction is good, it's a bit strange to assume that storybook readers have bad vocabulary skills. Both fiction and nonfiction, and poetry and nursery rhymes, include huge amounts of vocabulary that a willing reader will pick up.

Of course, the easiest way to teach vocabulary is to give kids picture dictionaries early on, or to take them places and talk to them about things.

Bob Ellison said...

There's a lively discussion related to this issue on another Althouse blog today.

Jaltcoh, maybe you just need to wait a few days before posting. But I'd like to see more rapid posts from you, so...I guess I hope you'll increase the frequency even if you have to delay the publication.