Teaching Content is Teaching Reading

Patrick Gibbons

According to the Nation's Report Card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 43 percent of Nevada's fourth-grade students can't read at grade level . And that is after we've spent over $40,000 educating each of them. Obviously, improving reading is important: Students who fail to learn how to read are more likely to end up as high school dropouts—with an increased likelihood of a lower living standard and all the problems associated with poverty.

Nationally, the average first-grade student devotes as much as 62 percent of his or her time to language arts. By the third grade, students are spending as much as 47 percent of their time in language arts. Nevada students are likely no exception.

So, is there a better way?

Professor Daniel Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, thinks so. To improve reading, we need to improve reading comprehension, but to do so, we need to improve the student's general knowledge—meaning more civics, more geography, more science, history, arts, and music … and less emphasis on reading strategies. An interesting idea.

Professor Willingham has a compelling 10-minute video presentation, "Teaching Content is Teaching Reading," on YouTube. We think you'll find it interesting.