Literacy - Informational Text
Helping children learn how to read, understand what they read, and to talk, listen and write about their experiences and the world has long been a focus of the Ready To Learn initiative. In this grant round, CPB and PBS are focusing on an area of literacy that is extremely important for children’s success in their world and school – informational text. The project’s goal is to help children better understand what informational text is, to identify different purposes of informational text, to utilize strategies for reading informational text, to understand and write informational texts, and to build world knowledge through informational texts.
What is informational text?
Nell Duke, a Ready To Learn advisory board member, and an expert in early childhood education and informational text, defines informational text as text intended in part to convey information and/or present an argument. There are many different types of informational texts, each with a different purpose. Duke chooses to categorize these texts into five types (Duke 2014):
- Informative/Explanatory: a text that conveys information about the natural or social world. Examples include: textbooks, atlases, Wikipedia, informational picture books
- Persuasive: a text that is intended to influence the reader’s ideas or behaviors by convincing them that an idea/opinion is the right one. Examples include: op-eds from newspapers or magazines, brochures for organizations
- Procedural: a text that provides step-by-step guidelines that describe how to complete a task and/or teaches someone how to do something (recipe with photographs). Examples include: how-to assembly instructions, cookbooks, instructions for science investigations
- Nonfiction Narrative: a text with a purpose to interpret and share the story of a real event. Examples include: texts that tell true stories of a historical event or natural disaster, texts that tell the story of an animal’s life
- Biography: a text with the goal to interpret and share the experiences of a real person; Examples include: biographies, autobiographies, personal essays
It is important for children to learn how to identify which types of text are most appropriate for a given purpose, as well as explore and identify text features that support that purpose. Utilizing features such as captions, titles, graphics etc. will help children better find the information they need. In addition, when engaged with informational text, children will learn age appropriate strategies and skills for comprehending informational text, understanding key ideas and details of a text, and integrating knowledge and ideas within and across texts. They can also build these skills through writing of informational texts for a variety of purposes. Through all of this, they can build important knowledge about and understanding of the world around them.
Why is informational text important?
Whether reading a book about the history of the United States, following instructions for science investigations, using a guide book to go on a trip, or writing a research report in school, children and their families are interacting with informational texts everyday and everywhere. As children get older and progress through school, their interactions with informational texts increase significantly.
As a result, children need to learn how to recognize, read and write informational text starting as early as possible. National standards, such as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), include a significant focus on informational texts, and schools are following suit with their instruction. In Kindergarten through 5th grade, the CCSS’ expectation is that students balance the reading and writing of literature with the reading and writing of informational texts (Duke 2014).
But informational texts can and should also be explored in the preschool years. Early research in this area shows that informational text is developmentally appropriate. According to Hall-Kenyon, Culatta and Duke (2015), the intentional use of informational texts can provide many benefits for young children including: motivating their learning, building their knowledge, and supporting academic language development.
New Content Featuring Informational Text
The CPB-PBS RTL Initiative is excited to provide children with many engaging opportunities for exploring and learning about and with informational text. A new literacy show with supporting games and activities is currently in production for PBS KIDS with a core focus on teaching children ages 4-8 years old about informational text while building important world knowledge. This property will launch early in 2019. In addition, children will see informational text use modeled in Ready To Learn’s Science programs and have the chance to interact with and create their own informational text though related science games and activities.
- Juliet L. Halladay and Nell K. Duke. (2013). Quality Reading Instruction in the Age of Common Core Standards. Edited by Susan B. Neuman and Linda B. Gambrell. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
- Duke, Nell K. (2014). Inside Information: Developing powerful readers and writers of informational text through project-based instruction. New York, NY: Scholastic.
- Hall-Kenyon, K. M., Culatta, B. E., & Duke, N. K. (2015). Building emergent comprehension through informational texts. In A. Debruin-Parecki, A. van Kleek, & S. Gear (Eds.), Developing early comprehension: Laying the foundation for reading success (pp. 93-113). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.