Reading skills are rooted in understanding the alphabet and being aware of the sounds letters and combinations make. But you can also help teach reading through literature. Students as young as preschool benefit from books and short stories, but there also are disadvantages if you use them to teach reading.
Advantages for Young Students
Beginning at the preschool level, storybooks develop basic reading skills, including holding a book, turning pages and recognizing the orientation of writing. Research published by the International Reading Association and the National Reading Conference found that young children who were read to performed better on tests of vocabulary and comprehension. But overall comprehension comes through retelling stories or extending stories through role-playing.
Advantages for Elementary Students
Once students can read on their own, using literature in the classroom continues to develop their comprehension skills. Reading and understanding a variety of texts increases vocabulary. Additionally, the use of literature in reading lessons helps students recognize the difference between fiction and nonfiction writing. Teachers explain the difference between made-up stories and stories based on real life during and after reading. Reading literature also develops skills in reasoning as students predict events or react to characters in stories.
Disadvantages for Students
Several factors in literature-based reading instruction can negatively affect student learning and growth. In a diverse classroom, it may be difficult to find books that all students can relate to at the same time, particularly in classes where all students are read to simultaneously. Using one book for an entire class presents challenges as more complex stories might be difficult for all students to understand. Additionally, with varying levels of vocabulary and comprehension abilities in a single classroom, it may be difficult to choose stories that all students easily understand.
Disadvantages for Teachers
Developing a reading curriculum based on literature creates some additional work for the teacher. Books need to be both an appropriate reading level for most students and contain enough challenge to expand vocabulary and comprehension. Additionally, it may be difficult to reuse the same texts year after year -- stories or topics become outdated or less relevant to students' lives. Teachers may also need to choose several books for each lesson to ensure that all students have a text to read that is appropriate for individual skills.
- Handbook of Reading Research: Volume III; Early Childhood and Elementary Literature-Based Instruction: Current Perspectives and Special Issues; Linda B. Gambrell, Lesley Mandel Morrow, Christina Pennington
- Reading Rockets: Research-Based Principles for Improving Reading Achievement of America's Children
- The Use of Authentic Materials in Classrooms; Tamo, D.; 2009
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