The Scarcity of Informational Texts in First Grade

CIERA Report #1-007

Nell K. Duke
Michigan State University

CIERA Inquiry 1: Readers and Texts
What sorts of experiences do first-grade students have with informational text? Can increased exposure to informational text in the early grades influence children's ability to read and write it successfully later on?

Although scholars have called for greater attention to informational texts in the early grades for some time, there have been few data available about the degree to which informational texts are actually included in early grade classrooms, and in what ways. This study provides basic, descriptive information about informational text experiences offered to children in 20 first-grade classrooms selected from very low- and very high-SES school districts. Each classroom was visited for four full days over the course of a school year. On each visit, data were collected about the types of texts on classroom walls and other surfaces, in the classroom library, and in classroom written language activities. Results show a scarcity of informational texts in these classroom print environments and activities--there were relatively few informational texts included in classroom libraries, little informational text on classroom walls and other surfaces, and a mean of only 3.6 minutes per day spent with informational texts during classroom written language activities. This scarcity was particularly acute for children in the low-SES school districts, where informational texts composed a much smaller proportion of already smaller classroom libraries, where informational texts were even less likely to be found on classroom walls and other surfaces, and where the mean time per day spent with informational texts was 1.9 minutes, with half the low-SES classrooms spending no time at all with informational texts during any of the four days each was observed. Strategies for increasing attention to informational texts in the early grades are presented.


University of Michigan School of Education

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To appear in Reading Research Quarterly.