- A study published in the American Educational Research Journal found young children's exposure to informational text — knowing how to find information — through free, public education media can provide low-cost, scalable and equitable access to effective learning opportunities.
- The findings provide encouraging evidence that access to research-based content can support young children’s literacy development both at home and in school, said Naomi Hupert, co-author of the study and director of the Center for Children & Technology at the Education Development Center.
- Exposure to informational text is critical for learning, but children tend to have less exposure throughout elementary school compared to narrative and other forms of text, the study said.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Common Core State Standards recommended that 50% of elementary-age children’s reading — including teacher read-alouds — consist of informational text.
Informational text can provide background knowledge and vocabulary essential for reading comprehension, NAEYC said in a 2019 post.
The study published by AERJ said informational text "is essential to daily life and fundamental to literacy."
Researchers focused the study's work on Molly of Denali, an animated series developed and produced by GBH, a Boston-based station within the public media system, in partnership with the Public Broadcasting Service and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
CPB participates in the Ready To Learn initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, which brings free educational television and digital media resources to children ages 2-8 to promote early learning and school readiness, with an emphasis on supporting children from low-income communities.
Researchers conducted two nine-week, multi-state, randomized controlled trials with 263 1st grade children from low-income communities. The first study found positive intervention impacts on child outcomes with only one hour a week of access to the programming, with the treatment group outperforming the control group on ability to use informational text to answer questions or solve real-world problems. The second study replicated those findings.
"This study confirms again, as have several of our past studies, that, yes, children can learn when media is designed extremely well, follows learning trajectories, but it's also engaging, fun and appealing," said Hupert, who is also a senior research scientist at EDC.
Although the study focused on at-home exposure to informational text, Hupert said schools can also access public education media's videos and online games, as well as supplemental materials, to enhance learning and to build connections between learning in school and at home.
"One of the things that informational text lends itself to is modeling what you can do in your own room," Hupert said. "So you can watch an episode and then see where some of those activities can be played out with the kids in your classroom."