Reading in other classes: Textbook reading level

December 13th, 2010 by Brian Leave a reply »

To stay relevant as a librarian and be the best possible resource for my campus I can, I will be examining how to teach reading in other subject areas besides Language Arts/English. This is not to say that other teachers should stop teaching their content and teach someone else’s. What I’m finding is where basic reading strategies will help students succeed in any class they are in.

Here’s a great quote from Billmeyer and Barton in Teaching Reading in the Content Areas:

Miller (1997) notes that science and social studies textbooks selected for a grade level are often above the reading level of many students in that grade. Similarly, an examination of math textbooks reveals that even though the mathematical concepts may be grade-level appropriate, the reading level can be one, two, even three years too advanced for the students for whom the books are written (Braselton and Decker, 1994).

Even though the research is a decade old, it doesn’t matter because so are most of our textbooks. This re-emphasizes for me that we can’t simply sit a student down with a textbook, tell them to read a few pages, and expect them to learn the material to the same degree that an involved student would. Many of the strategies for effective reading involve engagement with the material mixed with an understanding of how certain texts are laid out. Unless teachers provide that framework first, student reading will be inefficient for the majority of students.


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