Learning both zoology and English together doesn't seem the most obvious curriculum pairing. But according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania, such a combination can boost literacy development in the very crucial early years of our children. Two researchers at the university, Abigail Gray and Brookes Bowden, discuss this question and what their findings tell us about early literacy skills development.

The program in the study combined science with literacy learning. Bowden and Gray were interested in integrated curricula in general, specifically in science, because of its huge potential for impact. However, since there is less research on science and its actual instruction happening in schools in the US, there aren't many students who develop an interest in or have a love for science.

In this study, a specific focus was placed on parental involvement, and students were given books to read at home for at least 30 minutes a day. The children were exposed to scientific language and subjects such as the natural world, habitats, entomology, and hypotheses. The scientists' theory was that reading about the natural world and animals would develop the kids' motivation to read more.

The results showed that motivation to read was particularly strong in young boys, which is interesting since they are generally less motivated to do this kind of activity. Overall, it seems that an integrated approach can have a significant effect on literacy development. Why? According to Abigail Gray, "Because it's fun, and children want to do things that are fun. We forget that when we build our curriculum." She is absolutely right: Learning must, first of all, be fun.

Picture: How zoology is boosting early literacy skills (tes-magazine, w/Effects)