As students move beyond the primary grades, the focus of their school lives shifts from learning how to read to using reading to learn. From the middle grades on, students are expected to read and to understand increasingly more diﬃcult materials in an array of content areas. Unfortunately, many students are unable to meet this expectation. For them, reading to learn from content area materials can be a struggle.
A number of text- and student-related factors can make content area reading diﬃcult for some students. For example, students may have little experience reading expository writing, the kind of text structure found typically in textbooks and other content area materials. Further, they may become frustrated and confused by the content-speciﬁc vocabulary and concepts that characterize these materials. Adding to their diﬃculties, students may have inadequately developed basic reading skills, such as word identiﬁcation and decoding skills, and so may not be able to read with ﬂuency. Finally, many students may lack—or be unable to use eﬃciently—the comprehension strategies necessary for getting meaning from content area materials.
Although reading instruction alone can teach students many of the skills and strategies they require for reading content area materials successfully, students also must have ample opportunities to apply these skills and strategies in “real” reading situations—that is, as they read in the content areas. Thus, all teachers across the curriculum and across grade levels can play a role in teaching students to use reading skills and strategies to learn the content of the subjects that they teach and to become independent readers and learners.
Speciﬁcally, teachers can provide students with instruction that
- familiarizes them with the structure of expository text;
- promotes content area vocabulary development;
- promotes word identiﬁcation skills;
- builds reading ﬂuency; and
- emphasizes and directly teaches how, why, when, and where to use a repertoire of comprehension strategies.
Download and review the Research-Based Content Area Reading Instruction booklet. The purpose of this booklet is to provide teachers with research-based and classroom-tested information about each of these aspects of content area reading instruction, along with speciﬁc teaching suggestions that can be used with students.