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7 Nov 2006

Are There Alternatives in Reading Textbooks? An Examination of Three Beginning Reading Programs

Elfrieda H. Hiebert, University of California, Berkeley
Leigh Ann Martin, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Shailaja Menon, University of Colorado, Boulder

Journal Article

Hiebert, E.H., Martin, L.A. & Menon, S. (2005). Are there alternatives in reading textbooks? An examination of three beginning reading programs. Reading & Writing Quarterly 21(1), 7 – 32.


The first-grade components of three textbook programs — mainstream basal, combined phonics and literature, and phonics emphasis — were compared on cognitive load (e.g., number of different words) and linguistic content (e.g., number of monosyllabic, simple vowel words). Three levels of three components of a program — literature anthologies, decodable texts, and leveled texts — were compared.

Texts of the mainstream basal program grew in length but had similar cognitive load and linguistic content across levels and components. The phonics and literature program had numerous decodable texts initially but, at later levels, emphasized a literary anthology and leveled texts that were similar to the mainstream basal program. The phonics-only program had decodable texts with small numbers of unique words. Its literature, however, had no clear connections to the words of decodable texts.