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February 23, 2005

reading and civics

It's hard to modify the current regime for elementary education in America, which revolves around annual high-stakes tests in a few subjects. However, without changing the fundamental structure now in place, we could infuse civic ideas and values in reading education. In general, there is a remarkable lack of nonfiction in early reading texts. According to studies summarized in this article, nonfiction represented just 12 percent of the texts included in five major basal reading series for first grade. "Furry-animal stories" dominate. A survey of 83 primary school teachers found that just 6 percent of the material discussed or used in their classrooms was factual.

However, students perform better on existing reading assessments if they have had practice reading in a variety of genres, including history, news, and science as well as fiction. Thus schools should incorporate more social studies into k-8 education as a strategy for complying with existing "No Child Left Behind" reading requirements. As a very important by-product of reading about George Washington, Rosa Parks, or Nelson Mandela, civic knowledge and skills should also increase.

February 23, 2005 2:51 PM | category: advocating civic education | Comments

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