A caveat on reading fiction in school

The new Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts call for students to read a lot more non-fiction and less fiction than they used to, a requirement that has caused some consternation among educators, the Washington Post reports. Here’s a look at an interesting difference between fiction and non-fiction, written by cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, professor and director of graduate studies in psychology at the University of Virginia and author of “Why Don’t Students Like School?” His newest book is “When Can You Trust The Experts? How to tell good science from bad in education.” This appeared on his Science and Education blog:

The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts call for a significant dose of non-fiction reading in support of reading comprehension. That requirement has led to some puzzlement (and
(Ron Charles) occasional indignation). Can’t kids gain knowledge of the world from fiction as well? Information about science, history, technology, civics, geography, etc?

The answer is “they can and they do.” But there is an important caveat on this conclusion. Beth Marsh and her colleagues offer an excellent summary of this research in a new article published in Educational Psychology Review

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