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11 Mar 2014

Changing Readers, Changing Texts: Beginning Reading Texts from 1960 to 2010

Elfrieda H. Hiebert

Book Chapter

Hiebert, E.H., Martin, L.A. (2015). Changes in the Texts of Reading Instruction During the Past 50 Years. In P.D. Pearson & E.H. Hiebert (Eds.), Research-Based Practices for Teaching Common Core Literacy. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


Over the past 50 years, substantial changes have occurred in the texts used for beginning reading instruction. This article analyzes four prominent perspectives that have most influenced beginning reading instruction texts over this period. These changes in texts are examined in relation to changes over time in the nation’s demographics and the experiences that relate to young children’s literacy learning, including media exposure, availability of children’s books, and time spent in non-parental care. These analyses are followed by an examination of the research underlying three assumptions that shape the reading instruction found in all current core reading programs: (a) earlier is better, (b) word repetition is not a factor in learning to read, and (c) one size fits all. The review ends with a call for the design and selection of texts for the students who most depend on schools to become literate.