TextProject has just launched FYI for Kids—a collection of engaging and high-quality magazine articles designed to enhance the Common Core classroom’s reading repertoire. The objective of this project is to demonstrate a type of text that is essential for increasing students’ engagement in and proficiency with complex texts—short, engaging articles that communicate critical information. Many magazines for children and young adolescents have yet to be digitized (and, even when they are, past issues may not be available on the Internet)—so we want to be clear that the volume of articles offered through FYI for Kids is a small drop in the bucket of what is needed in classrooms. And magazine articles, of course, are not the only type of texts that need to be ramped up in Common Core classrooms. These articles illustrate a form of text that is often missing from classrooms and have great potential to build students’ capacity for complex texts.
There are at least five reasons why magazine articles are so critical in a curriculum:
Length and Style: The articles that make up FYI for Kids are on the short range of length for magazine articles—around 350 words long. The articles that have appeared on the assessments of the NAEP are typically 750 words or more. We keep the articles short so that they could be on a single page and include pictures. A first priority in many classrooms is to get students engaged in reading articles, and pictures can go a long way toward whetting curiosity in reading. We also want the texts to be easy for teachers to project onto a whiteboard or to photocopy.
Vocabulary Levels: The articles featured in FYI for Kids are different in one important way from most magazine articles in that, while complex in content, the texts are presented with differing percentages of rare (and likely unknown) vocabulary.
A prominent part of TextProject’s message is the 90-10 rule of vocabulary distribution: 90% of the words in most texts comes from a group of 4,000 simple word families, while the other 10% (the extended vocabulary) comes from the remaining words in English (as many as 300,000 additional words). Being facile with the 4,000 simple words families is essential for students to be able to read complex texts.
The FYI for Kids texts are at five complexity levels: These levels are based on a range of 1% to 5%, indicating the portion of the words in a text that fall into the “10” category—the extended vocabulary. That is, these percentages represent the number of words that are not in the 4,000 simple word families. For instance, “Bird Nests” is a magazine article in the first volume of FYI for Kids (the volume numbers indicate the text complexity level). There are four potentially challenging words in “Bird Nests”: auks, penguins, tailorbirds, and cuckoos. Students should be able to recognize the word auks after an appearance or two since it’s monosyllabic. Multisyllabic words can often present more challenge than monosyllabic words.
Table 1: Levels of difficulty in FYI for Kids.
|Volume 1||Volume 2||Volume 3||Volume 4||Volume 5|
|Text contains 1% extended vocabulary||Text contains 2% extended vocabulary||Text contains 3% extended vocabulary||Text contains 4% extended vocabulary||Text contains 5% extended vocabulary|
|Issue 1||Bird Nests||Bats||Greek Mythology||Bison||A Birthday Wish: Rachel Beckwith|
|Issue 2||Going With the Flow||Fractured Fairy Tales||Putting Two Words Together||Louis Braille||Counting Animals|
|Issue 3||Posters Over Time||Totem Poles||Bats in Sports||Standing on Your Own||The Tides|
|Issue 4||Nesting Dolls||Moles|
Domains: We’re still generating texts for FYI for Kids, but the content falls into five main content areas. The content areas vary in the number of themes that fall within them, as shown in Table 2 below.
Table 2: Content Domains and Themes in FYI for Kids.
|Content Domain||Themes||Example of a Magazine Article in FYI for Kids|
|Art and Music||Art; Music||"Nesting Dolls"|
|Human Interest||Fashion & Crafts; Young Heroes; Sports & Games; Young Inventors||"A Birthday Wish: Rachel Beckwith"|
|Language Studies||Text Study; Word Study||"Putting Two Words Together"|
|Science||Earth Science; Life Science, Physical Science||"Counting Animals"|
|Social Studies||Civics; Culture; History; Geography & Economics||"Totem Poles"|
Every single topic won’t have texts for every difficulty level. But there is enough to get started—especially for the last quarter of the school year when students often make their greatest learning gains. And don’t forget TextProject’s SummerReads! Summer reading is critical to sustain if students are to keep the gains that they have gotten over the school year.