Content Area Literacy

Content Area Literacy is the main topic of our Blended Learning course.

But what do we mean when we refer to Content Area Literacy?

The PISA-Studies (2000 ff.) made the broader public aware of the fact that reading literacy is a basic competence required for all kinds of learning; furthermore, they revealed that in European countries, on average one out of five adolescents lack the necessary basic literacy skills to cope with requirements in education, training, workplace, societal participation and lifelong learning.



Adolescents lacking necessary basic literacy skills


One reason for these literacy deficits of adolescents is seen in the lack of a systematic reading instruction in mother tongue and content area education in secondary schools. International research has shown that understanding content area texts (or disciplinary texts) should be taught in all subjects and all grades systematically. This idea of teaching reading and writing “across the curriculum” is called Content Area Literacy (CAL).

Disciplinary literacy, on the other hand, addresses the need of developing ‘discipline’-specific language which is necessary for understanding, but also reading, writing and talking about domain-specific texts.

The assumption is that understanding an authentic source in history requires other qualifications than dealing with a math assignment or the documentation of an experiment in chemistry, for example. Both approaches support the idea of systematically teaching literacy skills, in all grades of secondary schools within the different subjects.

Unfortunately, in most European countries, content area/disciplinary teachers are not trained to fulfill this task, that is why they consider language teachers responsible for literacy instruction, even though it has been proved that this is not sufficient.

For this reason, the BleTeach project -and its predecessors BaCuLit and ISIT- aim to offer systematic professional development for secondary teachers of all school subjects on how to effectively include literacy instruction in their subject classes.

Past Projects

These two projects are the predecessor projects, upon which BleTeach builds its research.



The ISIT project addresses two of the crucial needs defined by the Education and Training Benchmarks for 2020 and by the High Level Group of Experts on Literacy (HLGEL 2012):

  1. the problem of low literacy skills in many European countries
  2. the unsatisfying status of teachers’ continuous professional development (CPD) in the EU.

Thus ISIT pursues two goals: training 30 teacher educators from 3 European countries in content area literacy (CAL), and analysing good examples of how to implement innovations into different national structures of CPD. More Information here.



The BaCuLit project is an answer to the reading difficulties of adolescents which have been revealed by the PISA studies and which the educational policy of the EU Commission aims to reduce. BaCuLit defines the first overall European minimal standard as well as research-based principles of Professional Development (= PD) for in-service teacher training in content area literacy.

The BaCuLit Project offers a PD course containing six modules which include a complete teaching material set of PPTs, worksheets, a Teacher Workbook and a Trainer Handbook with workplans for every course unit and theoretical background information. Go to BACULIT.



Boys and Books website

Adore Project website

Elinet Project website


Numerous materials developed by our Literacy experts, both internally and externally, which address the issues of Content Area and Disciplinary Literacy.


Content Area Literacy in Europe (article)

Author: Christine Garbe

Content Area Literacy Expertise (article)

Author: Christine Garbe

ADORE Expertise (article)

Authors: Christine Garbe, Martin Groß, Karl Holle, Swantje Weinhold

Disciplinary Literacy (presentation)

Authors: William G. Brozo and Sari Sulkunen

Content Area Reading and Disciplinary Literacy (article)

Authors: William G. Brozo, Gary Moorman, Carla Meyer, Trevor Stewart

Reading for all students (article)

Authors: William G. Brozo, Charles H. Hargis

These links are meant to help you better understand the definition, current research stand and use of Content Area Literacy in other projects and resources.

External Links