Why care about Reading in a Science or Math class?
They are only children…….
“All I know is what I read in newspapers."
Indeed, TV news and the Internet aside, those famous words spoken by humorist Will Rogers ring truer today than ever. Rogers wouldn't recognize the newspaper of the 1990s --- the variety of news it offers; the abundance of photos; the text peppered with charts, graphs, and maps. Today more than ever, the newspaper is a source for all one needs to know.
And, more than ever, teachers recognize the usefulness and importance of "using the news" -- and of developing students who have good newsreading skills and an awareness of current events. Among the benefits students often cite, "current events" programs:
- cover a wide range of subjects and connect to all areas of the curriculum.
- build language, vocabulary, reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem solving, oral expression, and listening skills.
- develop informed citizens and lifelong newsreaders. Studying current events helps students understand the importance of people, events, and issues in the news; it stimulates students to explore and learn more about the news, and to pay attention to the news they see and hear outside of school.
- provide a "writing model." Students can learn by imitating the clear, concise style of news writing.
- help teachers teach media literacy skills, as important today as any of the three Rs.
- can open up communications between students and parents. Students are often eager to emulate their parents' news-reading behaviors, and talking about the news is one way for parents to engage students in adult conversation.
- offer ideal opportunities for cooperative-group instruction, classroom discussions and debates, purposeful follow-up writing, and much more.
Indeed, the newspaper has been regarded as a useful tool for teaching students about current events for more than 200 years! The Portland Eastern Herald recorded on June 8, 1795, that:
"Much has been said and written on the utility of newspapers; but one principal advantage which might be derived from these publications has been neglected; we mean that of reading them in schools."
RESEARCH SUPPORTS THE USE OF CURRENT EVENTS
For children to become competent lifelong learners, they must learn how to use nonfiction materials to expand their knowledge base, solve problems, and make decisions.
That point was made by Edward F. DeRoche, dean of the School of Education at the University of San Diego in his book The Newspaper: A Reference for Teachers and Librarians (ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1991).
A large body of research supports the use of newspapers and current events as teaching tools, says DeRoche. Among the research he sites:
- Students who use newspapers tend to score higher on standardized achievement tests -- particularly in reading, math, and social studies -- than those who don't use them.
- Newspapers help teach students to be effective readers.
- Newspapers can help develop and improve student vocabulary, word recognition skills, and comprehension.
- Newspapers are effective tools for teaching many math concepts, particularly fractions, decimals, currency, and averages.
- In surveys, students overwhelmingly support the use of newspapers in the classroom and have a positive attitude toward reading newspapers.
- Newpapers increase awareness of and interest in current events.
- Students who read newspapers in school tend to continue reading them when they become adults.
Students who study news or watch TV news in school are more interested in current events than those who do not, according to a large body of research cited in a 1997 report (Student Interest in National News and Its Relation to School Courses) from the National Center for Education Statistics. Studies indicate that elementary and high school students are not intrinsically interested in current events, least of all in foreign news and U.S. politics. But evidence suggests that including current events in the school curriculum can increase interest. In a recent survey, 135 inner-city schoolteachers who used a program designed to incorporate current events into lesson plans said the program was effective in increasing student interest in current events. Another study of 798 students in grades 9 to 12 showed that students who study news or watch TV news in school "are more likely to engage in news-seeking behavior outside of school."
The NCES study also reported results of the 1996 National Household Education Survey (NHES), which revealed that students who take classes that require them to pay attention to government, politics, or national issues report increased interest in those issues outside of school. About two-thirds of students in grades 6 to 12 reported in the survey that they had taken such a course in one of the last two years; about half of the students surveyed had taken such a course in both of the last two years. Overall, 65 percent of students who took at least one course during the last two years reported their interest in politics and national issues increase "some" or "a good deal" as a result. Among students who had taken such a course in both of the last two years, 71 percent responded that their interest had increased.
In another NHES measure, students who reported taking a course that generated at least some increase in interest in politics or national issues also reported outside news-seeking behaviors. They were more likely than others to discuss the news or watch or listen to the national news with parents.