Effective Practices for Teaching Content Area Reading


Adequate reading skills are necessary for college and career readiness and success in the work force, but many students do not have sufficient reading skills. The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress demonstrated that fourth- and eighth-grade students had made little to no progress in reading since the previous report in 2017. Elementary students often receive dedicated English language arts instruction during the day, but this is not always true for secondary students. One way that educators can support students across the grades is by providing evidence-based reading instruction within content areas (e.g., science and social studies instruction).

Researchers have investigated ways for teachers to provide high-quality content area reading instruction to support the reading comprehension and content acquisition of students in general education settings. Previous research suggests that paraphrasing and text structure instruction support readers’ identification of key ideas and the integration of those ideas across paragraphs and passages when reading content area texts. These practices align with reading comprehension theory in support of conscious text processing while reading. Teaching readers to generate main ideas during reading may improve the reading outcomes and content acquisition outcomes not only for typical readers, but also for struggling readers and those identified for special education. Educators’ implementation of such practices within science and social studies instruction may improve students’ reading performance and content learning across grades.


Stevens, E. A., & Vaughn, S. (2020). Effective practices for teaching content area reading. In Oxford research encyclopedia of education (pp. 1–28). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.013.1209