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Utilizing Nonfiction Texts to Enhance Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary in Primary Grades


Many primary grade students are not afforded nonfiction-rich opportunities, with fiction comprising the majority of books read aloud in classrooms. With the Common Core Standards recommending that half of the texts made available to students be nonfiction, educators are increasing their use of informational text. The present study explored the impact of explicitly teaching reading comprehension and vocabulary strategies with nonfiction text compared to fiction text in primary-grade classrooms. Two first-grade (n = 39; 25 male, 14 female) and one second-grade class (n = 20; 13 male, 7 female) participated in the quantitative study that followed a repeated measures design in which the students alternated every 2 weeks between fiction-based instruction and nonfiction-based instruction for a total of 8 weeks. Vocabulary and use of comprehension strategies were assessed at the end of each 2-week period. Overall findings indicated that students were better able to apply the comprehension strategies and define vocabulary following nonfiction-based instruction; they also were more motivated to read informational text. The authors recommend that teachers use more nonfiction texts in the primary grades to support students’ reading comprehension and vocabulary development.

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The authors thank the Center for Educational Transformation at the University of Northern Iowa for generous support of this research project.

Ethical statement

This study was approved by the Human Subject Committee of the researchers’ university; all students included in the study and their parents were fully informed and provided written consent to participate.

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Correspondence to Sarah E. Montgomery.

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Kuhn, K.E., Rausch, C.M., McCarty, T.G. et al. Utilizing Nonfiction Texts to Enhance Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary in Primary Grades. Early Childhood Educ J 45, 285–296 (2017).

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  • Nonfiction
  • Informational text
  • Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Primary grades