How to Make Significant Reading Gains in Elementary


How to make significant gains in reading. A new study finds that social studies is the only subject that leads to reading improvement.

This might sound counterintuitive, but if we want to see real reading improvement, then we need to cut back on ELA and make more room for direct social studies instructional time. A new long-range study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that social studies--not ELA is "the only subject with a clear, positive, and statistically significant effect on reading improvement."


Study Finds We Need to Cut Back ELA and Spend More Time Teaching Social Studies to See Reading Improvement

In elementary, schools are spending on average 120 minutes on reading each day and 82 minutes on math. Social studies receives the least amount of instructional time, with only about 28 minutes allocated to this subject. The findings from this new study are incredibly significant because this long-range study followed 18,000 students from kindergarten through their 5th grade year.


The study found that when students had an additional 30 minutes of direct social studies instructional time each day, significant reading gains were made. In fact, on average, students in grades 1–5 outperformed students with less social studies time by 15 percent of a standard deviation on the fifth-grade reading assessment. The students that benefited the most from more social studies instruction were girls, those from lower-income, and non-English speaking homes. No other subject--not even ELA had a significant effect on reading improvement.


Background Knowledge is the Key to Reading Comprehension

I've often heard the argument that "students need to learn to read, and then they can read to learn." This is a false assumption. Yes, we need to