Most states are adopting the new Common Core Standards, requiring that students’ reading curriculum include more rigorous and nonfiction materials. In fact, the goal is to have 70 percent of a student’s reading come from informational texts by graduation, according to the article “New Literacy Standards Could Challenge Even Passionate Readers.” This shift in reading content is aimed at helping build reading skills students will need in college, career and throughout their lives.
You most likely know first-hand that it takes different reading skills to get through a recreational novel and paperwork for your job. Consider what makes up the bulk of your daily reading. If you’re a professional, do you spend most of your day reading reports, manuals, or John Grisham? If you’ve ever been a college student, think back to your college biology class. Did you know how to read the textbook? Did you try approaching it like you would a fiction book? Today’s students and professionals also have the complexities of reading and parsing online sources. In the information age it’s more crucial than ever that readers have the ability to not only sift fact from fiction, but to comprehend factual material, period.
Just because the shift to reading more nonfiction seems practical, doesn’t mean educators think it will be easy to adopt. According to this article, educators voiced expected challenges when implementing the new Common Core Standards:
- Students don’t read.
- Students can’t interpret advanced reading without help.
- Reading is not being assigned or is “dumbed down.”
Teachers can’t make students read, but they can raise their expectations of students and help them develop the critical thinking skills they need to analyze nonfiction material in high school, college, and their career. Teachers who are adopting the new standards can help ease students into nonfiction by introducing them to books they have interest in and that relate to their school and life. Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers is the perfect book to solve the high school teacher’s problem of getting students to read nonfiction. This is a non-fiction book that has relevance for teenagers and sharpens the thinking skills they need to interpret more complicated texts later in their schooling.
But high expectations can’t stop on the last day of the school year. Every summer, low-income students suffer learning losses due to a lack of academic resources, affecting their reading and math scores during the school year. Teachers and parents must keep their expectations high during the summer months in order for students to reach their potential during the school year. Lifebound is working with several foundations, school districts, libraries and housing projects to get both students and parents reading. If that can happen, more students will build their reading skills and more single and low-income parents who struggle economically can make progress towards a GED, community college degree, or a state college degree which can lead to better employment and more life options. These steps are more integrated and have stronger far reaching consequences than relying on schools alone to promote reading.
It is not only the school’s responsibility to prepare our students with the skills they need to be successful students and professionals. The student must be supported in a culture of learning by the school system, home, and community. Getting students on a path to success is a collaborative effort.
Nonfiction reading can be as exciting as fiction, and sometimes even more so when students are learning about themselves or things they are interested in. How will you embrace nonfiction reading in your class? How can you make nonfiction reading important for your students? How can you make students embrace a challenge? How can you help families realize the importance of summer learning?
“New Literacy Standards Could Challenge Even Passionate Readers,” by Benjamin Herold. 3 April 2012. Education Week. Accessed on 5 April 2012. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/04/03/28pnbk_reading.h31.html?tkn=NYPF+qNryCeh9gYdTN4IBk0WqNbk9HXcZbdD&cmp=clp-edweek