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Learn how Core Knowledge schools in nearly every state are succeeding with a sequenced, solid, specific, and shared curriculum. More…
Why Knowledge MattersStrengthening Reading Comprehension and Learning
In his 2006 book, The Knowledge Deficit, E. D. Hirsch, Jr. writes, “We need to see the reading comprehension problem for what it primarily is–a knowledge problem.” Our schools must supply students with broad, content-rich knowledge of history, geography, science, literature, and the arts in order for them to become stronger readers. “There is no way around the need for children to gain broad general knowledge in order to gain broad general proficiency in reading,” Hirsch concludes.
Today, the opposite is happening in too many of our schools. Social studies, science, and the arts are being crowded out of the curriculum, to make more time for instruction in reading and math, subjects tested in annual state exams. Principals and administrators know schools, must by law, make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) on tested subjects. Many educators feel under pressure to set aside more time for instruction in these areas, even if this means neglecting a broad, general curriculum. The often-heard justification is “other subjects can wait” until reading skills are mastered.
If the goal is to strengthen literacy and boost test scores, however, reducing instructional time in the content areas is the wrong approach. Research consistently shows that strong readers have a substantial store of background knowledge that helps them make connections as they read–and make correct inferences about things they don’t know. The more you know, the easier it is for you to understand what you read and to learn new things.
To learn more about why knowledge matters, visit the Core Knowledge Reading Room.