Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wait, that’s Not Broccoli. It’s Chocolate Cake! Part 3

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve shared academic articles with evidence that nonfiction in general and expository nonfiction in particular is more popular among elementary students than most of us might think. Simply put, what the children’s literature community calls broccoli, many kids call chocolate cake.

I was satisfied that those studies made a strong case for making expository nonfiction more available to students and integrating it into more classroom lessons, but a few weeks ago, Terrell Young, a professor of education at Brigham Young University in Utah, sent me a newly published article with even stronger evidence.

Repanskey, Lisa L., Jeanne Schumm, and Jacqueline Johnson. “First and Fourth Grade Boys’ and Girls’ Preferences for and Perceptions about Narrative and Expository Text.” Reading Psychology, 2017, p. 1-40.

The study included 42 students in first grade (21 girls and 21 boys) and 42 students in fourth grade (21 girls and 21 boys) who were evenly divided among the three reading levels (below, at, and above grade level) and from a range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. All of the children had received equal exposure to expository and narrative text since kindergarten.

Each student was introduced to five sets of books. Each set consisted of one fiction title and one expository nonfiction title on the same topic. The children were encouraged to take their time with the books, browsing, skimming, or reading as much as they wanted to and then asked which ones they would like to read. They could choose as many as they liked.

The students’ selections showed that 67% of first grade boys and 48% of fourth grade boys had a clear preference for the expository books. 19% of first grade boys and 33% of fourth grade boys liked the narrative and expository titles equally.

38% of first grade girls and 19% of fourth grade girls had a clear preference for the expository books. Another 38% of first grade girls and 62% of fourth grade girls liked the narrative and expository titles equally.

In other words, for both grade levels and both genders, more than 75 percent of students liked the expository books as much as or more than narrative titles. 42 percent had a moderate or strong preference for expository nonfiction.These are powerful results.

Once again, I encourage you to get the full article and read it. I’ll be sharing findings from the Scholastic Reading Report next week.

10 comments:

  1. This is helpful, interesting, and encouraging for those of us who love sharing facts with children in creative ways! Thank you for gathering this research.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Cynthia. There's more research to come.

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  2. Trying to get the article, but, purchase of the whole thing is expensive. And yet I am curious enough... I am writing more for 8-12 graders, and wonder if this hypothesis holds true. please post your Scholastic Reading report on Facebook, I should be able to pick it up from there.

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    1. You can order the article through interlibrary loan for free, Teresa. I haven't found any research on this topic for high school students, but there's no reason to think the results would be different. I'll be discussing the relevant parts of the Scholastic Reading Report next week, but you can access the entire report here: http://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/

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  3. Thanks so much for bringing this important information to light, Melissa. It is good to note that other genres in writing, particularly expository are great ways to promote nonfiction knowledge. Hoping this study opens the eyes of many!

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    1. Absolutely, Jen, both nonfiction writing styles--narrative and expository--have their benefits.

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  4. This is excellent news for those of us who write nonfiction! Thanks for another insightful post, Melissa...looking forward to more.

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  5. Thanks so much for sharing this info, Melissa! I've been enjoying following the discussion here, and as a reader and writer of NF it is heartening to know this :)

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  6. I like this series... especially the cake. Thanks for pointing to the articles.

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    1. LOL. One piece of chocolate cake was harmed in the creation of these posts.

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