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Knowledge Matters!

In my last blog, I wrote about the science of reading as it relates to the shift in how reading is taught in our primary schools today. There is a new campaign that has sprung from this emphasis on teaching reading that relates to comprehension. As we know, most young students have few experiences and limited knowledge about the world with which to make connections. Without background knowledge or the information one already knows about specific topics, the capacity to learn is smaller. Daniel Willingham, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia, has written about how factual knowledge can enhance the cognitive process – like problem-solving, and reasoning.


In order to even out the process of acquiring knowledge, the “Knowledge Matters Campaign” has erupted to help promote knowledge building curricula in K-8 English Language Arts. This aligns with the research on the role of background knowledge in reading comprehension. The focus of instruction would be to prioritize acquiring knowledge across a range of subjects, such as science and social studies and the arts.


While, as of now, this is only a vision, it points to more equity in education, with an emphasis on supporting all students as writers, thinkers and learners. The science of reading is not only about foundational skills. By promoting a broader K to 12 knowledge initiative, educational leaders may be able to build more bridges between research and practice.


As parents and educators, we must push for a more evenly distributed, high-quality curriculum throughout all the districts. Background knowledge should be built for all students, regardless of a school’s location. The knowledge gap, as E. D. Hirsch has written, does matter, and without adjustment, our abysmal reading scores cannot improve.


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