Sarah Stewart Taylor, a CLiF presenter and author, interviewed CLiF’s founder and executive director Duncan McDougall for a recent parenting piece. Sarah summarizes the aspects of reading supported by our programs – relaxing and enjoying the moment, modeling by reading yourself, repeating books, and letting kids choose.

I know this is true, and I feel like a terrible parent (especially after reading the article) when I try to dissuade by daughter from bringing home her current favorite series – Dog Heroes.

We have made it through three of the twenty-eight (!) books – Eco Dogs, Baghdad Pups, and Military Dogs. These books prompt interesting and timely questions about US involvement in the Middle East and invasive species, and I want to answer them, but I wish it was not at bedtime.

So I looked into the benefits of reading nonfiction to remind myself why I need to engage with these books. Here are the most interesting tidbits I found:

  • Reading informational texts helps students develop their background knowledge, which accounts for as much as 33 percent of the variance in student achievement (Marzano, 2000). I have been amazed at facts my daughter retains from reading different types of books and how she recalls that information later.
  • Nonfiction reinforces for our kids that they live in the real world and that they can understand, observe, and experience all of it. This idea ties together nonfiction books about art, music, math, science, and engineering.
  • In this age of quick links and online news, students can not as easily understand complex texts, in part because they can not sustain their reading over time. Online reading trains readers to skim, not to make their way through informational text. In “Too Dumb for Complex Texts?,” Mark Bauerlein argues reading complex text requires a willingness to probe, a capacity for uninterrupted thinking, and a habit of slow reading.

I want my daughter to develop those skills, and I want her to have the confidence to find answers for herself. Now I will refrain from eye rolling when I see her library choices, and remember that it is not only that we read but also what we read that will prepare her to be a lifelong learner.



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