Content Literacy 101

"Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st century will read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their household, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives."
                                                                                                                --Richard Vacca

Content Literacy in the 21st Century

"Preparing students to become productive citizens in a society permeated with literacy events is an evolving responsibility. The degree of each student's success depends upon whether or not individual teachers consider literacy to be a fundamental part of their instructional planning." (Lester 2000)

Did You Know?

"More than one in four adolescents is achieving below basic levels in reading (National Assessment of Educational Progress, [NAEP] 2005) and nearly one-third of students who graduate from high school are not prepared for college-level reading (ACT, 2006)." (Cantrell, Burns, & Callaway 2009)

"In [the NAEP's] most recent version, 50% of fourth-grade-level test content required students to read narrative text and 50% involved reading to gain information. By eighth grade, the bulk of the test involved reading informational text to gain information (43%) or to perform a task (30%)." (Moss 2005)

"Federal dollars traditionally reserved for early reading initiatives are increasingly allotted for the implementation of adolescent literacy programs (Striving Readers, 2006)." (Cantrell, Burns, & Callaway 2009)

"According to the most recent NAEP, high school students are scoring lower in reading now than they did in 1992...Reading scores for U.S. eigth graders stayed steady during that period, but only 70% of students who enter eighth grade in the United States even complete high school." (Shanahan & Shanahan 2008)

"The Programme for International Assessment (PISA)...reveals that American 15-year-olds do not perform as well in reading as their age-matched peers in fourteen other countries...Meanwhile, American high school students cannot read at the level necessary to compete in a global economy, and many are likely to have difficulties in taking care of their health needs or participating in civic life." (Shanahan & Shanahan 2008)

Why Do We Need Content Literacy?

Students today are expected to be more literate than any previous generation. The ability to decode and utilize multiple forms of text is necessary for relational, workplace, and educational contexts:

"During the past generation, the expansion of information-based technology, the internalization of labor markets, and the changing of workplace demands have increased the importance of literacy as an ingredient of economic and social participation." (Shanahan & Shanahan 2008)

To keep up with this changing economic and social climate, teachers need to incorporate literacy strategies that their student can use in "real-world" situations:

"Given the complexity of content area texts and the range of familiarity, experiences, skills, and abilities that middle and secondary students bring to content area classrooms, infusing literacy instruction into the content areas has been touted as a way to meet the diverse needs of students and to improve their learning of content specific literacies and discourses." (Cantrell, Burns, & Callaway 2009)

The following recommendations have been made for increasing students' literacies:

"The U.S. Department of Education Striving Readers (2005) grant program has indicated that the following elements should be included to help middle and high school students master basic reading skills and comprehension:
a. Extended learning time for literacy
b. Direct, explicit instruction in comprehension
c. Modeling of reading and thinking strategies for comprehension
d. Cooperative learning and discussion of texts among students
e. Self-selected reading at students' ability levels to build motivation
f. On-going progress monitoring
g. Intensive writing
h. Age appropriate and diverse reading materials, and
i. Interdisciplinary, classroom-based efforts to focus on literacy" (Dugan 2008)

Numerous studies and surveys show that American students are lagging behind their international peers in reading. Even compared to past American generations, today's students are falling behind, even though they need to be much more literate than they were. The use of content literacy concepts can help increase students' reading comprehension in the classroom. More importantly, these tools can help equip today's students to be successful members of modern society. To begin incorporating these strategies, check out my page on: "Getting Started."

(For full bibliographic information of the articles cited, see: References Used)