Are your children learning enough
to make their dreams come true?

Knowledge Matters…

… for dreaming

Are your children being inspired to become marine biologists? Archeologists? Astronauts?

Probably not. Kindergarten to sixth-grade teachers report spending just

16 – 21 minutes

a day on social studies.

19 – 24 minutes

a day on science.

Knowledge Matters…

… for achieving

Are your children learning enough to be ready for college, career, and citizenship?

Probably not. On the Nation’s Report Card, relatively few eighth-graders are clearly
on-track for college.


Educators need to devote more time to building vocabulary and knowledge in
science, social studies, and the arts—starting in early childhood.

Policymakers need to create incentives for districts and schools to make
long-term investments in building academic knowledge.

Parents need to demand a well-rounded education and read aloud,
visit museums, and discuss current events with their children.



Enhance Your Knowledge

“The mistaken idea that reading is a skill,” notes University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, “may be the single biggest factor holding back reading achievement in the country. The knowledge base problem must be solved.”

Reading comprehension depends on broad knowledge and a large vocabulary.

From newspapers to novels, all texts for literate adults omit basic information—they use terms, draw analogies, and make references without offering definitions or explanations. In short, they assume that the reader has a base level of knowledge. In order for children to grow into literate adults that read widely with ease, all schools must make building broad knowledge—teaching all the knowledge that writers assume readers have—job one.

To learn more, read “Can Reading Comprehension Be Taught?” by Daniel Willingham and watch Willingham’s video, “Teaching Content Is Teaching Reading.”

Critical thinking and problem solving depend on broad knowledge and deep knowledge.

Broad knowledge is necessary for comprehension—so it’s also the starting place for critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Try analyzing the primary causes of the U.S. Civil War without knowing much about America in the first half of the 19th century. Try designing a study to compare water-filtration technologies without knowing much about waterborne diseases or filtration methods. There simply are no all-purpose thinking skills that can be deployed effectively without knowledge.

To learn more, read “21st Century Skills: The Challenges Ahead” by Andrew J. Rotherham and Daniel Willingham, and “Education in the Age of Google” by Annie Murphy Paul.

Knowledge increases IQ.

Although many people in Western cultures believe intelligence is genetically determined, a more accurate view is that intelligence is influenced by both genes and the environment. Learning new knowledge actually increases intelligence. Just like practice in sports leads to new skills and better performance, time spent reading and studying leads to higher achievement and greater ability.

To learn more, read “Schooling Makes You Smarter” by Richard Nisbett.

Knowledge is like an interest-bearing savings account: The more you know, the faster you learn.

Starting a subject from scratch is tough; adding a few more facts and concepts to something you already know a lot about is easy. Another way to think about your knowledge is like a sticky web. The bigger your web, the more stuff will stick to it. The smaller your web, the more information will pass on by without being added to your store of knowledge.

To learn more, watch Robert Pondiscio’s presentation on “The 57 Most Important Words in Education Reform.”

The early grades are critical for building knowledge and vocabulary.

While building knowledge is always beneficial, the early grades are especially important. Some children build lots of academic knowledge at home, but others rely on their schools. In the early grades, the gaps are still relatively small and the odds of catching up are better.

To learn more, read “The Word Gap” by Laura Colker and “Building Knowledge” by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. Also, watch Susan Neuman explain “Why Knowledge Matters.”