Balancing Their Diet

Last week’s issue of the Marshall Memo points to an important article in IRA’s The Reading Teacher .  In “Teaching Students to Comprehend Informational Text Through Re-reading ” (subscription required), Laura Hedin and Greg Conderman argue that there are several key steps in getting students to comprehend informational text, including considering context and promoting re-reading.  Hedin and Conderman also argue that choosing the right level of difficulty is vital when choosing informational texts.  Students comfortable with fiction may find themselves frustrated when faced with informational text as much as two grade levels above their reading ability.

Their suggestion jibes with our own research about the importance of targeting text.  After all, asking a student to ‘read harder’ when confronted with text at levels two to three grades higher is unlikely to produce the desired affect and runs the risk of associating reading – particularly informational reading – with frustration.  Fortunately, there are a wide variety of Lexile-linked resources , including tens of millions of articles on a wide variety of topics, that are available through many of the popular database aggregators in use at schools around the country.  These valuable resources allow educators to target readers at just about any level on most content area topics.

Hedin’s and Conderman’s work also alludes to the troubling lack of informational text being consumed by most secondary students.  As we’ve written before , the neglect of non-fiction – informational texts – is apt to leave students poorly equipped to handle the text demands of the post-secondary world.  As Nell Duke has argued (subscription required), a diet rich in only one type of text has left our students unable to compete with other students at a global level – students with diets of text far richer and more diverse.  Fortunately, many states have taken notice of this deficiency and are going to some lengths to adjust their students’ interaction with text.  The newly released Common Core Standards , for example, propose a much higher level of interaction with informational texts, as well as an earlier introduction to nonfiction material.

That’s a good start.  By introducing students to a wide variety of texts and targeting them at their reading level, educators have a good chance of kindling a love of reading in all students.

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