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Literacy & Informational Text

September 25, 2011

A term that many parents are starting to hear more and more is “informational text.”  The term is defined within the broader category of nonfiction as having the primary purpose of conveying information.  The most common form for our students today is in textbooks.  However, according to a 2009 study 96% of websites contain informational text.

There may be no better or more efficient way to build knowledge and a large vocabulary than reading lots and lots of informational text.  Since informational text is written to convey key facts, it often contains specialized wordage and provides a jump start to building both a robust vocabulary and a range of conceptual knowledge for children.

While many of us think of this type of text as “boring” compared to fictional texts, some  students find this type of text better suited for comprehension.  For example, struggling readers are often challenged by limited vocabularies which makes processing complex narratives difficult.  Informational texts, particularly about topics that feed students’ interests, may be an easier way to build their knowledge and vocabulary base, which are the building blocks for comprehension.

The new Common Core State Standards highlight this expectation.  They recommend half of the text read during the day at the elementary level be informational text and that by 12th grade that number should increase to 70% – a reflection on what is expected at the college level and the workplace.

One thing is very clear, to function in the information age, strong literacy skills are essential.

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