“First you learn to read. Then you read to learn.”
Children spend the earliest years developing their reading skill. Then they rely on that skill to achieve across content areas… in math, science, social studies and other areas. We have come to recognize, however, that the reading students must perform to understand the core subjects is generally more difficult than what they read in language arts class. As students progress through the grades, the reading becomes more complicated and the workload grows heavier. Those who have not mastered essential reading skills face the biggest hurdles. Sometimes, even very bright students who might otherwise excel in math or science simply cannot adequately understand what is being asked or communicate well enough to convey how much they know, because they have unaddressed reading difficulties.
It becomes so very helpful if teachers instruct across content areas. This means that the content area teacher (math, science, social studies, for example) is mindful of a student’s reading abilities and needs. This means the content area teacher is open to supporting a student’s literacy growth, knowing that this will help the student immensely in the goal of mastering content material. It also means the language arts instruction seeks to reinforce the material students are learning in other subjects. The repetition of content material across classes and the shared support of student literacy across classes is a powerful combination to support the overall success of the learner.
Literacy skills that are incorporated into the science classroom in the form of students’ reading, writing, speaking and listening aid overall communication skills, which in turn, aid acquisition of content material. Language arts time that is spent reading non-fiction material and performing literacy activities that include math, science, social studies and so forth expand a student’s background knowledge, content-area vocabulary, and higher level thinking skills.