By Susan Engel and Catherine Snow October 4, 2023 at 6:15 a.m. EDT
This opinion essay makes excellent points about the importance of background knowledge and vocabulary.
The Core Knowledge program is one of my favorites because students learn about concepts and topics. Great opinion piece!
Although learning to identify sounds, letters, and words is necessary for reading comprehension, it is not enough.
Effective readers connect what is on the page with what they already know. Unfortunately, U.S. schools emphasize decoding words over helping children acquire knowledge.
However, once kids enter middle school — and standardized tests begin measuring deeper reading comprehension — scores nose-dive.
By age 15, only 14 percent of U.S. children excel at reading, and nearly 20 percent fail at a baseline proficiency.
Most ninth-graders in the country are not skilled at absorbing and using information obtained from written material.
When it comes to literacy, schools might be getting students to fourth grade, but they’re not getting them past eighth grade.
When reading fiction or poetry, deep comprehension involves using subtle cues in the text to make inferences about the characters’ underlying emotions.
It requires understanding the genre and connecting the material to the writer's era. It also involves identifying common themes between texts.
The more foundational knowledge children have about a given domain — the solar system, natural selection or human physiology — the easier it is for them to grasp new information and theories.
Teaching kids to read better through knowledge acquisition must start early.
Data gathered in homes, schools, and labs show that 1-to-3-year-old children who have conversations with older people learn to read more easily than children who do not.
And it’s not just the sheer quantity of conversation that matters.
The information embedded in those discussions shapes unfolding literacy skills. When adults talk substantively about events and objects, children are afforded a significant educational advantage: Their growing bodies of knowledge boost their reading skills.
Though young children are not developmentally ready to sound out words and interpret sentences simultaneously, they are ready to engage in lively discussions about what they’ve read or read to them.
Children under 8 can easily speculate on why “The Cat in the Hat” is naughty, why the stepmother of “Hansel and Gretel” is wicked, or why leaves turn bright colors in autumn.
Probing conversation is key...