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Why should ELA students read a broad range of texts?
FRIDAY, MAY 08, 2015 12:16 PM

As any English/language arts teacher knows, it's important for students to be introduced to a wide variety of literature and informational texts. If students are only instructed to read novels, their ELA education will be very limited. The Common Core State Standards address this by asking educators to teach "a broad range of high-quality, increasingly challenging literary and informational texts," which they say is everything from stories to poems to nonfiction books. But why is teaching this variety vital to students' overall English/language arts skills? Here are a few reasons:

To become familiar with various styles
According to a position statement from the International Reading Association, an important aspect of adolescent literacy is knowing "the different ways written texts are presented, and the variety of ways that readers approach and use texts." In other words, poetry is different from drama or stories, and understanding those distinctions (and commonalities) is key to being able to critically read and analyze each one. A Shakespeare play may use language and literary devices in a completely separate way than a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which means each requires a different approach by the reader.

To discover different cultures
Writing is one of the most ubiquitous forms of expression across all cultures, which means reading texts from a certain group of people is an important method for understanding them. For instance, Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published well before the Civil War, and provides an authentic representation of the cultural norms and issues during that time. Familiarity with other cultures, whether historical or modern, is a vital part of being a global citizen. 

To build a foundation of knowledge
The Common Core requires instructors to use nonfiction texts across a range of disciplines, including history, social studies and science. However, they aren't limited to informational texts. Historical documents, letters, autobiographies, essays, speeches and more can all provide students with a foundation of knowledge about each subject. This will help them as they move into more challenging middle and high school classrooms.

To initiate discussions
LEARN NC discusses the value of bibliotherapy, or using books to manage and talk about personal situations. Reading a range of literary styles is not just about gaining college- and career-readiness skills, but it can also help students understand social issues on a deeper level. Race, politics, religion and even smaller-scale social issues like bullying and tolerance can all be understood better and discussed more openly by reading a range of texts.