For Immediate Release
December 18, 2012

State Board of Education promotes winter break reading with Common Core in mind

Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) Standards emphasize reading complex text, demonstrating knowledge of text, speaking and listening skills

SPRINGFIELD –The Illinois State Board of Education encourages families to ensure students are reading during winter break and tapping resources regarding the English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core Standards. School districts across the state are implementing the ELA and math standards, also considered benchmarks or goals, to help prepare students for success in college and careers.

“Standards, of course, are just the first step but they help ensure that teachers and families have clear goals for each student,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “There are lots of online resources to help parents understand the new standards and some easy strategies for supporting these goals while traveling during the school break or reading on a cold winter’s night.”

The Common Core ELA standards set the standards not only for English language arts but also for literacy across content areas, including social science/history, science, the arts and technical subjects. The cross disciplinary approach emphasizes the importance of literacy within all subject areas and ensures students can independently build knowledge in these disciplines through reading and writing.

The ELA standards emphasize that children read challenging and complex text for their grade level. Experts recommend parents employ several strategies to help their child take on more challenging text:

Another way for parents to help their child find challenging text is to take their child’s Lexile scores, found on individual student Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT)  results, and go to the free online “Find a Book” utility at to target books that not only match their interests but are also in the upper end of their score range or band. The Lexile range for a reader spans from 50L above his or her Lexile measure to 100L below.

The Common Core emphasis on complex reading forces instruction on the process and analysis that helps students become effective readers, according to Laurie Elish-Piper, professor of literacy education and director of the Northern Illinois University Reading Clinic. Teachers may talk about the process of making an inference, handling difficult words or concepts, or determining an author’s theme or purpose.

“At the same time, it’s important to read for entertainment…just like as adults, we don’t read Shakespeare and Faulkner all the time,’’ Elish-Piper said. “I think of it like eating a balanced diet. Kids need to have challenging complex text that is part of their reading diet but at the same time they can have fun and entertaining reading. We want children who not only can read but love to read and choose to read for fun.”

In K-5, fulfilling the English Language Arts standards requires a 50-50 balance between informational and literary reading. Informational reading primarily means content-rich, non-fiction in history/social studies, science and the arts. During grades 6-12, the Common Core ELA standards place greater emphasis on literary nonfiction than prior standards.

Another strategy for supporting the Common Core ELA Standards is to establish a regular reading time at home when all family members sit down to read together. Parents might ask their children evidence-or text-based comprehension questions about subject matter, thinking of the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when and why) as a way to launch the discussion, i.e. `who is the main character or individual in the text?’ The Common Core ELA standards emphasize that children should be able to use evidence from text that demonstrates their understanding and ultimately present careful analysis and well-defended claims both orally and in writing.

Speaking and listening skills are also integrated throughout the ELA standards at each grade level. Asking children to explain their answers or opinions is one strategy for encouraging good speaking or listening skills. Addressing a child’s specific comments during a conversation or debate is another way to model good listening skills.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework, but it’s up to local districts to develop curriculum aligned to these standards.

Illinois is among 45 states and three territories to have adopted the Common Core Standards and expects to administer a new assessment aligned to the standards in 2014-15. Illinois is a lead state in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and families can read the first draft of test samples at About 20 percent of the items on the 2013 ISATs will be aligned to the Common Core ELA and math standards.

Other helpful websites related to the Common Core include:

The Illinois State Board of Education: and the parent guide to the Common Core:

The Illinois Reading Council:

The National Governor’s Association’s Common Core Standards: and to see text samples by grade and sample performance task, visit Appendix B of the standards at:

The Illinois Parent Teacher Association:

PTA Grade level guides for the CCSS in English and Spanish:

Education Northwest’s Spotlight on the Common Core State Standards – What Do Parents Need to Know (Available in English and Spanish):

Council of Great City School’s Parent Roadmaps for the Common Core (K-8):

Advance Illinois: and www.commoncoreil/org/resources

The Lexile Framework for Reading and Common Core Standards: and Lexile at Home:


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