Beyond Reading to Learn:
Developing Content and Disciplinary
Knowledge Through Texts
Steven A. Stahl Cynthia R. Hynd Shawn M. Glynn Martha Carr The University of Georgia National Reading Research Center
The purpose for much of the reading that is done in schools is to learn new information. Usually, reading to learn involves reading expository texts such as social studies or science textbooks. Reading to learn might also involve reading newspapers and magazines, or it might even involve reading fiction, if a student's purpose is to learn something about literature. Because of the centrality of reading in most school learning, we know more about reading to learn than we do about reading for other purposes. Learning information from text appears to involve an interaction between textual factors such as structure and vocabulary and reader factors such as prior knowledge of the text's topic, reading strategies available for learning, and motivation to learn.
Traditional views of reading to learn are important, and researchers continue to conduct research examining questions about topics such the development of readers' strategies to learn from text or the operations required to develop literal and inferential understandings of text. However, our view of content area reading is becoming broader, and educators are adopting broader goals for learning from text. The purpose of this chapter, then, is to move beyond a concern for learning about topics from reading to a concern for developing rich disciplinary knowledge in addition to topic knowledge. For example, although we are interested in the ways readers learn what historians and scientists have discovered, our interest is also focused on ways readers learn to think like historians and scientists. Developing such knowledge involves texts, but it involves