Reading Requires Knowing
In the Fordham Institute’s publication Education Gadfly, Robert Pondiscio writes about why children need to a base of knowledge about the world before they can learn to read effectively:
“Reading is ‘domain specific.’ You already have to know at least a little bit about the subject—and sometimes a lot about the subject—to understand a text. The same thing is also true about creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. Indeed, nearly all of our most cherished and ambitious goals for schooling are knowledge-dependent . . .
Perhaps the gravest disservice done to schoolchildren in recent memory is the misguided attempt to teach and test reading comprehension not just as a skill, but as a transferable skill—a set of tips and ‘reading strategies’ that can be applied to virtually any text, regardless of subject matter. Building the foundations of early reading—teaching young children to decode written text—is indeed skill-based . . .
However, ‘the mistaken idea that reading [comprehension] is a skill,’ University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham has written, ‘may be the single biggest factor holding back reading achievement in the country. Students will not meet standards that way. The knowledge-base problem must be solved.'” Read more here.
Robert is right that children need a base of knowledge in order to understand what they read—and that means teaching them content like history, geography, science . . . contrary to the people out there who speak so disparagingly of a “content-based education.”