Table of Contents

1.1.1 How Does History/Social Studies Promote Literacy Skills?

History/social studies content provides an ideal context for strengthening CA CCSS literacy skills and constitutes an essential component of a child’s education.

Time to Read

Read the following quotes from educators emphasizing the importance of reading in the content areas including history/social studies.

Reading proficiency isn't in and of itself the magic key to competence. It's what reading enables us to learn and to do that is critical… The idea that reading skill is largely a set of general-purpose maneuvers that can be applied to any and all texts is one of the main barriers to our students' achievement in reading. It leads to activities that are deadening for agile and eager minds, and it carries big opportunity costs. These activities actually slow down the acquisition of true reading skill. They take up time that could be devoted to gaining general knowledge, which is the central requisite for high reading skill."

E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Core Knowledge Foundation
The Knowledge Deficit, 2006


Literacy is the key word here, because the teaching of history should have reading and writing at its core. Years ago, this may have been the case, but that time is long gone. In some underfunded schools, teachers struggle to cope with low reading levels by reading the textbook aloud to students so they at least "get the content" (Schoenbach, et. al, Reading for Understanding, 1999). In other classrooms, writing in social studies is increasingly being replaced by PowerPoint assignments, complete with bullet points and animation. But we can no more defend an argument on why the USSR disintegrated using bullet points than we can journey to Moscow on the wings of a Frommer travel guide. Working through successive drafts of the cause-and-effect essay-making sure that paragraphs reflect a logical procession of ideas and that assertions are backed by evidence-is hard and inglorious work, but there are no shortcuts…Skits and posters may be engaging, but leaving students there-engaged but illiterate-amounts to an incomplete lesson that forfeits our claim as educators…This means teaching students to be informed readers, writers, and thinkers about the past as well as the present-a goal all parties should be able to embrace. Our democracy's vitality depends on it."

Sam Wineburg (Stanford History Education Group) and
Daisy Martin (National History Education Clearinghouse),
"Reading and Rewriting History," 2004


This quote leads to an enduring question regarding the purpose of public education:

“How can educators equip all students with reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language skills and the knowledge, skills and dispositions to become responsible, engaged citizens of the 21st century?”

This professional learning module will offer some suggestions to answer this question. Since elementary teachers teach a multitude of subject areas, they integrate informational literacy skills and content in meaningful ways for students and are well-situated to address these issues.