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Educational Research Reports
Kindergarten Children Developing Knowledge of Information Book Language
February 1999

The Study
Increasingly, scholars have called for greater use of expository texts in early schooling. Nell K. Duke, an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, and Jane Kays, a teacher in the Boston Public Schools, examined what young children actually know and can learn about the language of expository texts, which often give students difficulty in later elementary grades. They assessed 20 pre-literate kindergarten students and their knowledge of one kind of expository text: the information book. The children were asked to give a pretend reading of an unfamiliar wordless informational book early in the school year. From then on the children's teacher read informational books aloud to them nearly every school day. Three months later, students were asked to give a pretend reading again to determine if their use of "information book language" increased

The Findings
In a very short period of time, these students did indeed make substantial gains in their knowledge of several key features of information book language and generalized this knowledge to the reading of an unfamiliar informational book. This was true of a diverse group of children, including children from several racial and ethnic groups and from low- to middle-income homes. This paper suggests that young children are not only capable of interacting with expository text, but actually enjoy these interactions. These conclusions are based on observations of the children's spontaneous interactions with information books over the course of the study, as well as their high levels of engagement with such text during read-aloud times. These results suggest that reading aloud may be an effective vehicle for exposing young children to expository books in early childhood settings.

What It Means to You
Students who become familiar with expository texts early on may have a smoother transition in later grades when they make the switch from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." Do teachers and librarians at your school read informational books aloud to children in early elementary grades? Do you make these types of books accessible to young students in classrooms or easy to find in the library? Do young students have opportunities to use expository language, either in written or oral exercises? If you provide students with these opportunities in your school, then they are likely to have more success with such texts later when encounters with expository texts become the mainstay of their education.

More Information
To read further on the importance of expository texts, see Duke, N.K., and Kays, J., "Can I Say Once Upon a Time?: Kindergarten Children Developing Knowledge of Information Book Language," Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 1998, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 295-318.

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