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NSBA’s Center for Public Education report examines the important role of informational reading

A new report, Beyond Fiction: The Importance of Reading for Information, released today by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA's) Center for Public Education (CPE), examines the key role of informational reading in preparing students for college, the workplace, and day-to-day life.

CPE arrived at several conclusions in its report:

  • The ability to understand and retrieve information, whether it be from an encyclopedia, a billing statement or the back of a prescription bottle, is a necessary life skill.
  • American grade school students do well at reading literature, compared to their international peers but not in reading for information.
  • This gap widens with age; U.S. 15-year-olds are at the international average in reading while literacy rates of American adults overall ranked below the international average on an OECD survey.  
  • Poor literacy skills often lead to a host of negative outcomes including fewer employment opportunities and depressed wages.

Informational content comprises most of the reading required in college and the working world. Yet, expository texts make up just seven percent of instructional reading at the elementary level and a mere 15 percent in middle school―and the complexity of those texts has declined in recent decades. 

Research shows that students need sustained exposure to informational texts to build critical reading strategies and that instruction in informational texts, along with literary content, enhances students’ overall literacy skills. 

“These findings show that our students need exposure to more reading of all kinds, not just literature,” said Patte Barth, Director of CPE and the report co-author. “Schools need to continue to engage students in novels, drama, and poetry, but also expand reading instruction across subject areas so they develop into strong, critical consumers of nonfiction texts, too.”

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