We are always delighted when children begin to read, and common wisdom has it that it doesn’t matter too much what they read, as long as they read — whether it is the comics or Captain Underpants.
A pilot program in New York City schools tracked the reading ability of about 1,000 students from kindergarten through second grade.
Half of the schools adopted the E. D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge program based on reading nonfiction history and science texts, and half of the schools used methods mostly falling under the definition of “balanced literacy” where students chose books of interest to them.
Students in the Core Knowledge program outperformed the other students in every way, including comprehension. The difference was most pronounced in kindergarten where the Core Knowledge students showed increases that were five times those of their peers. (N.Y. Times)
One principal said “My children are economically disadvantaged and needed something more with a wider vocabulary. The Core Knowledge pilot had it.”
This is not to say that all that wonderful fiction should be shelved, but perhaps a truly “balanced literacy program” might include nonfiction texts as well!