Learning to read in the content areas is a critically important skill that students must be taught. Educators must teach students the specific skills and strategies necessary so that they are able to read, write, comprehend, and critique information from many different sources. If American students are going to be successful, literate individuals who are able to compete in our global society, educators must find the initiative to have students learn specific reading strategies that will help them to understand and comprehend content area material.
Reading in the Content Areas in the Elementary Grades
Most people would agree that learning to read is a stepping stone to further educational pursuits for elementary school students. Unfortunately, reading proficiency in the United States of America by adolescent students indicates that there may actually be a problem of epidemic proportions in this nation. Two national reports- A Nation at Risk and the Report Card from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - indicate that there is indeed a crisis in our nation concerning students and literacy achievement. Recent data from the 2007 NAEP Report Card indicates that students’ achievement in reading and literacy skills has not positively changed for more than twenty years (as cited in Jacobs, 2008). While these statistics may seem bleak, there are some contributing factors that can be changed to help minimize these issues. The literature that I reviewed for this paper demonstrates the effectiveness of teaching reading strategies in the content areas as early as elementary school. This paper, will examine why and how effective elementary content area literacy may help to undo this disturbing situation.
What Is Content Area Reading?
Reading in the content areas (science, math, social studies) refers to the concept of reading to learn. In recent years, this term has been replaced by the term content area literacy. Content area literacy refers to reading, writing, comprehending, and critiquing multiple forms of print, not just textbooks. The term refers to all of the important ways that individuals gather information in today’s world- textbooks, trade books, Internet sites, electronic resources, and the like (Moss, 2005). Being able to use reading and writing to acquire new content in a particular discipline is the objective of content area literacy (Alvermann, Phelps, & Gillis, 2010). Educators should not only be interested in teaching students to read and comprehend in the content areas, but should be acutely aware of the significance of being able to read content material for our daily lives and personal satisfaction. Content area reading truly forms the foundation for students to become lifelong learners.
In years past, content area literacy was thought to only be appropriate for use in the intermediate grades (Manning, 1999). Primary classrooms have traditionally emphasized the...