Contrary to popular belief, primary reading texts have not been “dumbed down” in recent years, a new analysis in the American Educational Research Journal finds.
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University, Northern Illinois University, and the Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, Pa., analyzed the text complexity and the comprehension required in reading assignments in 187 reading textbooks for 3rd grade and 71 such textbooks for 6th grade published between 1905 and 2004.
While basal readers became simpler through the first half of the 20th century, starting in 1970 they included more sophisticated vocabulary and made more cognitive demands of students. For example, textbooks asked on average 16 comprehension questions per story in the 1920s, but 48 questions per story in the 2000s.
A version of this article appeared in the April 22, 2015 edition of Education Week as Reading Instruction