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The Importance of Integrating Science and Literacy

Science A–Z units and additional science resources are designed to assist teachers as they teach science and reading in an integrated approach. Science and English/Language Arts (E/LA) disciplines share common goals, as reflected in the National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) and the Standards for the English Language Arts (NCTE/IRA 1996). The NCTE states that the purposes of reading are "first, to acquire new information; [second], to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and [finally], for personal fulfillment."

The NCTE goal is quite similar to the goals for science education enumerated by the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards (NSES). The purposes of science literacy according to the NSES are, "First, an understanding of science offers personal fulfillment and excitement–benefits that should be shared by everyone. Second, [people] are confronted increasingly with questions in their lives that require scientific information and scientific ways of thinking for informed decision-making. ...Science understanding and ability will also enhance the ability of all students to hold meaningful and productive jobs in the future" (NRC 1996, pp. 11–12). The NSES further states that "Students in school science programs should develop the abilities associated with accurate and effective communication. These include writing and following procedures, expressing concepts, reviewing information, summarizing data, using language appropriately, . . . constructing a reasoned argument, and responding appropriately to critical comments" (176). Clearly, the goals of reading and science education are similar. They prepare students to acquire information and to use that information personally and globally.

How Science A–Z Integrates Science and Literacy

Science A–Z's student resources all integrate science content with literacy instruction. Nonfiction Books, Quick Reads, and Career Files help students learn new concepts, while asking students to consider how those concepts apply to their own lives. Discussion Questions for every section of the Nonfiction Books in the Nonfiction Book Teaching Guide, and Brain Check questions on the Quick Reads engage students in personal and global connections to the unit's concepts, while fostering oral and written communication skills.

Integrating science and reading helps educators use classroom time more efficiently, allowing students to reinforce science concepts during E/LA time and reinforcing good reading strategies and skills during science. The strategy of integrating the subjects has been found to increase achievement in both areas as well. Science A–Z's Nonfiction Books, Quick Reads, and Career Files give students practice reading informational text and implementing the reading strategies and comprehension skills outlined in the Nonfiction Book Teaching Guides. More than 50 Graphic Organizers give teachers tools to further reinforce key reading skills and comprehension strategies as needed.

Studies have shown that reading and science education develop similar types of skills, such as problem solving and sequencing (Armbruster 1992). Furthermore, Armbruster found "the study of science helps develop language and reading skills and strengthens the logical processes necessary for effective content reading." Romance and Vitale (1992) showed that combining the time allotted for science and reading significantly raised student achievement in science versus teaching the subjects separately. Mechling and Oliver (1983) found that reading scores improve as well. The Nonfiction Books, Quick Reads, Career Files, Vocabulary Cards, and Word Work dovetail to develop key scientific conceptual understanding and to support language skill acquisition, so that student achievement improves in both areas.

The Importance of Scientific Inquiry, Hands-on Science, and Communication

Through scientific inquiry, students have opportunities to use language in the context of solving meaningful problems and, as a result, engage in the kind of purposeful, communicative interactions that promote genuine language use (Truebal, Guthrie, and Au 1981). In addition to engaging in direct investigation of scientific phenomena, students make meaning by writing science, talking science, and reading science.

At the root of deep understanding of science concepts and scientific processes is the ability to use language to form ideas, theorize, research, share and debate with others, and ultimately, communicate clearly to different audiences. The work of Gina Cervetti, P. David Pearson, Marco Bravo, and Jacqueline Barber at the University of California, Berkeley (2005) supports these findings.

How Science A–Z Supports Scientific Inquiry, Hands-on Science, and Communication

Science A–Z's Process Activities provide hands-on experiences with the scientific method, hypothesizing, exploring, investigating, observing, collecting data, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. At the same time, students gain experience reading procedural text, and practice oral communication in group activities and presentations.

Because the ability to write clearly is also crucial for student success, suggestions for writing assignments in the Nonfiction Book Teaching and Unit Guides, as well as short and long answers both in the Process Activities and Unit Quiz, provide valuable and necessary writing connections for the science classroom (Tessier 2006). In this way, students regularly practice clear communication in every format—written, oral, and visual—and can do so within content area time as well as English/Language Arts time. Studies have shown that having authentic reasons to write helps students both to become better writers and to develop an enjoyment of the writing process (Cooper 1997).


American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 1993. Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Macmillan.

Armbruster, B.B. 1992. Science and reading. The Reading Teacher 46(4): 346–47.

Cervetti, G. N., P. D. Pearson, M. A. Bravo, J. Barber. 2005. Reading and writing in the service of inquiry-based science. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (COSEUP). 2007. The gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter future. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Cooper, J. D. 1997. Literacy: Helping children construct meaning. 3rd ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Guthrie, J. T., E. Anderson, S. Alao, and J. Rinehart. 1999. Influence of concept-oriented reading instruction on strategy use and conceptual learning from text. Elementary School Journal 99:343–66.

Guthrie, J. T., W. D. Schafer, and C. W. Huang. 2001. Benefits of opportunity to read and balanced instruction on the NAEP. Journal of Educational Research 94(3): 145–62.

McMahon, M. M., S. P. O'Hara, W. G. Holliday, B. B. McCormack, and E. M. Gibson. 2000. Curriculum with a common thread. Science and Children 37(7): 30–35, 57.

Mechling, K. R., and D. L. Oliver. 1983. Science teaches basic skills. Washington, D.C.: National Science Teachers Association.

National Council of Teachers of English and International Reading Association (NCTE-IRA). 1996. Standards for the English language arts. Urbana, Ill.: NCTE.

National Research Council (NRC). 1996. National science education standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Romance, N. R., and M. R. Vitale. 1992. A curriculum strategy that expands time for in-depth elementary science instruction by using science-based reading strategies: Effects of a yearlong study in grade four. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 29:545–54.

Romance, N. R., and M. R. Vitale. 2001. Implementing an in-depth expanded science model in elementary schools: Multiyear findings, research issues, and policy implications. International Journal of Science Education 23:373–404.

Tessier, J. 2006. Writing assignments in a nonmajor introductory ecology class. Journal of College Science Teaching 35 (4): 25–29.

Truebal, H. T., G. Guthrie, and K. Au., eds. 1981. Culture and the bilingual classroom: Studies in classroom ethnography. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.