OUR VIEW

Some Columbus school districts are beginning a process that is both smart and useful. These districts are moving ever so slowly away from fiction and adding more nonfiction reading to their curriculum. Officials from the Canal Winchester Middle School, located in a Columbus suburb, said students used to spend about 10 percent of classroom lessons on nonfiction. It's up to 25 percent now.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 24, 2010

Some Columbus school districts are beginning a process that is both smart and useful. These districts are moving ever so slowly away from fiction and adding more nonfiction reading to their curriculum.

Officials from the Canal Winchester Middle School, located in a Columbus suburb, said students used to spend about 10 percent of classroom lessons on nonfiction. It's up to 25 percent now.

One of the biggest catalysts for change has been Ohio's new achievement test, which asks students to read passages, respond and write short answers to essay questions. According to one teacher, more than 50 percent of the reading on the test is nonfiction.

We have never subscribed to the theory that teachers should "teach to the test." But, expanding the amount of nonfiction students are reading helps them become better critical thinkers. Being able to interpret and assess information is an invaluable skill in this ever-changing world. Anyone can memorize things from a textbook, but understanding practical applications and problem-solving is still a prized skill.

Nonfiction reading can also be used to supplement textbook material. For example, one Columbus teacher used a book on weather and hurricanes in science class. Seeing the effect in the "real world" can make a clinical, textbook explanation come alive.

In addition and just as importantly in a world increasingly connected through a global economy, it is crucial America's youth understand what is happening in the world around them. Starting that process with increased nonfiction reading in schools be it newspapers, magazines or books is a good place to start, and something school districts across the state and country should incorporate.