Parents Quick Guide to Common Core Reading

Blend Images/Getty Images

As I write this, 46 out of 50 states have adopted the English and Language Arts standards of the Common Core. The remaining four states have adopted standards very similar to Common Core.  The shift to Common Core Standards (CCS)  is one of the biggest educational reforms to have ever occurred in the United States.  Let's take a look at the three main shifts in literacy standards of CCS:

1  More Nonfiction - The CCS place a greater emphasis on reading nonfiction texts.

By the fourth grade reading material in school should be half non-fiction.  The amount of non-fiction material increases to 70% in high school.  Those percentages are for the reading a student does in school for the entire year, so that 70% of non-fiction in high school may include biographies and original document text in History, or processes and procedures from a science textbook.  

K-12 grade students will still be reading literature.  CCS just sets a standard so that students will also be reading more non-fiction.  This will help prepare today's students for their adult future.  Many jobs demand that workers be able to read manuals and procedures, and understand complex documents.  In the future, this will likely continue to gain in importance.  Auto mechanics and other repair professionals often have to refer to manuals to see how to do new repairs.  Human resource professionals must read and understand complex laws and policies.

2  Be Able to Cite Evidence From Fiction and Nonfiction Texts  CCS asks students to not only make a claim or develop an opinion based on a reading, they must also provide evidence to support their  position.  This skill is developed more fully as students increase in grade level.  Students go about finding the exact words in a text to show evidence in the younger grades, increasing that ability to making a claim while supporting it with a paraphrase of the evidence taken from the text that addresses anticipated counterclaims.


This skill focus will help students become critical thinkers about what they read.  Students will be able to get more out of what they read and be able to evaluate the quality of the information in the reading by developing these critical thinking skills.

3  Focus on Complex Texts And Vocabulary  The CCS has guidelines that increase vocabulary and complexity of reading as students progress through the grade levels.  What students read will become increasingly challenging to read as they progress through higher grades.  The idea is that students will be able to get more meaning from what they read.  Greater vocabulary skills will lead students to really understand the subtle differences or nuances offered by specific words used in the texts they read.  Increasing complexity of the texts is meant to help prepare students to read complex materials, like college textbooks.

What can we parents do to support our children's literacy learning? These three shifts in focus demand that our children learn to read and understand increasingly challenging material.

  You can make sure your children have access to a variety of reading material at home.  Talk with them about what they read, and ask questions that lead them to explain what they read.  Ask them if there were any difficult or unfamiliar words in their reading.

If you find that your child continues to struggle with their reading and writing, even after you have offered help, speak with your child's teacher or consider getting extra help for them.  With the new standards building on each other progressively over the grade level years, it is important to address problem areas before things become even more difficult.

Continue Reading