NELL K. DUKE
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Another reason to take up the challenge of developing students' informational literacy is that it may improve their overall reading achievement. The struggling reader-writers described earlier in this paper saw their abilities to read many kinds of text, including stories, improved by their experience with informational forms. Larger-scale research has also suggested the value of informational reading experience for overall reading development. Results of the 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicate that fourth graders who report reading informational texts and magazines, as well as storybooks, have higher overall reading proficiency than those who read only storybooks or even two out of three of these forms (reported in Dreher, 1998/1999).
Fourth-Graders' Reading Proficiency Related to the Diversity of Their Reading Materials
Fourth graders were asked which of three categories of materials they read: storybooks, magazines, and nonfiction. Students who read all three categories achieved the highest NAEP scores.
Supports for Incorporating Nonfiction, Informational Text Into the Classroom
Increasing awareness of the importance of informational literacy has led to more supports for informational literacy instruction. Here are a few of the strategies that have been successful in many schools:
- More and better nonfiction books. Nonfiction for children used to be largely restricted to textbooks, dry and abstruse. But in recent years there has been an explosion of outstanding nonfiction trade books and magazines for children. Even our youngest students can enjoy nonfiction texts on topics from how ice cream is made to what ants do in the winter, from the life and work of American heroes to characteristics of homes around the world. There are also a host of excellent magazines for children — old favorites like Ranger Rick and Cobblestone, and newer publications like Consumer Reports' magazine for children Zillions, Smithsonian's children's magazine Muse, and the ever-popular Sports Illustrated for Kids.
- Helpful Professional Books. Several books offer valuable advice about incorporating informational texts into the classroom, such as first-grade teacher Christine Duthie's (1996) book True Stories: Nonfiction Literacy in a Primary Classroom or Rosemary Bamford and Janice Kristo's (1998) Making Facts Come Alive. Among other things, these resources suggest ways to teach students to handle difficult features of nonfiction texts, through techniques such as K-W-L, webbing, and text structure instruction.
- Existing Classroom Activities. Many classroom practices we are already using can easily incorporate nonfiction texts (Kays and Duke, 1998). These include read-alouds, listening centers, classroom displays, writer's workshops, author's studies, themes and projects, content-area instruction, home reading programs, and many others. Most importantly, we can incorporate nonfiction texts into the materials available to students for sustained silent reading and other self-selected reading times. This allows students themselves to find texts that build on their particular interests and knowledge — an opportunity we should all have.
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