Research data from a new study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute confirms what Core Knowledge teachers have known for years! Educators looking for ways to improve students’ reading comprehension would do well to allocate 30 minutes each day to teaching social studies. Fordham’s associate director of research Adam Tyner and early childhood researcher Sarah Kabourek looked at data from the federal Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K: 2011), which follows thousands of students in their kindergarten year through fifth grade. They specifically compared how much instructional time was devoted to each subject area relative to students’ reading comprehension.

As most educators know, American students spend the most time in English Language Arts (ELA) instruction. However, the researchers found that increased instructional time in social studies – not ELA – is associated with improved reading comprehension.

If you are not yet familiar with the Core Knowledge History and Geography™ (CKHG™) program, a comprehensive K-6  program in world and American history and geography, integrating topics in civics and the arts, now is the time to check it out. CKHG is available for FREE  DOWNLOAD, as well as purchase. The program includes student books and teacher guides, as well as online resources, and timeline cards for Grades 3-6. Developed in conjunction with nationally recognized subject matter experts, (CKHG™) helps students build knowledge of the diverse civilizations, cultures, and concepts specified in the Core Knowledge Sequence.

It is also worth noting that, in a related Chalkbeat article, professor of education at the University of Michigan, Nell Duke, also points out that other research studies have explored and documented similar results when additional instructional time is devoted to science.

So be sure to also check out the Core Knowledge Science™ (CKSci) program, which is likewise available for FREE DOWNLOAD, as well as purchase.

8 comments on “If You Want to Improve Reading Comprehension, Teach Social Studies!”

  1. 1
    Angie on January 24, 2021

    We combine our ELA and SS into one block and it works nicely together.

    1. 2
      Brigette on January 27, 2021


      This is something that I used to do when I was a self-contained teacher and it really helped us be able to hit on everything we needed to accomplish in the classroom. I personally believe that it also increased student interest in social studies while they were unknowingly increasing their ELAR skills at the same time.

  2. 3
    Brigette on January 27, 2021

    I am a social studies teacher for 6th-grade and have made it a point to include ELAR as a prime part of our subject. Students are currently having to read articles from Britannica and take each section they have read and develop their own summary using their own words to explain what they read. I am seeing the growth in my students across the board with their reading as well as their composition and comprehension of the topics they are studying.

    1. 4
      Kerrean on January 27, 2021

      Hey Bridgette, I am a Social Studies teacher, too, at the middle and high school level. Our subject does involve a lot of reading and/or analyzing primary sources. As I began incorporating more ELAR into my lessons, I saw a vast improvement in my students’ comprehension and composition. Students are also displaying gradual changes in their dialects too. I embrace the idea of integrating SS and ELA.

    2. 5
      Brigette on January 28, 2021


      What kinds of changes in their dialects do you see in your class since you’ve integrated ELAR into your lessons? There are a few grammatical things that my students are improving on. However, it is more so in their writing than anything else. I’m trying to teach them about speaking properly and sounding professional.

  3. 6
    Keri on January 28, 2021

    I teach all subjects in 2nd grade and I have always wondered why my county’s curriculum does not implement more cross-curricular connections between ELA and Social Studies. My colleagues do their best to connect the two subjects as they plan and ensure that we incorporate reading strategies to aid in comprehension when teaching Social Studies. Our Social Studies block is only 45 minutes and two times a week. I feel that in order for students’ reading comprehension to improve, there should be adjustments made in our schedule or more cross-curricular opportunities. I am definitely supportive of integrating more Social Studies and ELA into the curriculum.

  4. 7
    Nicola Van Der Westhuizen on May 26, 2021

    I agree that SS and ELA as a combination is a great way to “kill two birds with one stone”. At my school, we use a certain Textbook that does cross-curricular work, such as spelling words, vocabulary words, and worksheets with English, SS, and Science but the problem is that we do not have the SS ad Sci textbooks that correspond to the English textbook. So the English textbook provides all these words but they lose meaning and context because they are explained in the Sci and SS textbook. I think when schools want to buy a new set of textbooks or resources that they ensure if there are cross-curricular subjects that they buy the whole set. I would also put it out there that the publishers make it worthwhile for the schools and provide discounts or packages for schools to buy the set. I understand that written works need updating and publishers/authors need to make money but this can also be done with an online textbook or updates for a subscription fee.

  5. 8
    Deuxangelsteacher on July 22, 2021

    I definitely agree here. We know that social Studies has either been pulled or shortened to teach. Don’t let me get started on what is being taught as well.

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