April 3 2023 – Knowledge Matters Campaign
Our Scientific Advisory Committee, comprising fourteen of the country’s leading education researchers, has published a new series on the importance of knowledge to reading comprehension in ASCD’s blog, and we believe it is essential reading.
“As education researchers, we have welcomed the increased attention to scientific research on reading. But we also believe the current understanding of that ‘science’ is often too narrow, in part because it gives little attention to building knowledge,” they write. “We believe it’s critical that educators incorporate all that we know about reading and writing development into curriculum choices and instructional practice.”
The premier essay, Looking to Research for Literacy Success, debuts ten practical recommendations for educators that have strong evidence:
- Build from Birth
- Grow Vocabulary
- Lead Discussions that Promote Student Talk and Comprehension
- Give Read-Alouds a Central Role
- Foster Foundational Skills
- Apply Strategies for Sense-Making
- Engage and Excite
- Curriculum Counts
- Use Texts as Tools
- Safeguard Science and Social Studies
The second essay, which looks at the first three of these recommendations, is entitled The Language Basis of Knowledge. “As children learn about the natural and social world, they encounter new information, expand their vocabulary and other aspects of language, and gain new understandings. They master new words and acquire knowledge of the world, both of which support reading comprehension. Such learning is rooted in language—which is not always words on a page. Speaking, listening, and engaging in dialogue are critical for building language and knowledge and, importantly, for connecting them.”
The third essay, Helping Students Access Complex, Knowledge-Rich Texts, looks at three additional recommendations. “Complex, knowledge-rich texts that feature unfamiliar vocabulary and new ideas are a powerful gateway for building knowledge. How can students access such texts? Simply putting a complex book in a child’s hands isn’t enough—they must be taught to read texts fluently and must be able to comprehend what they are reading.”
The fourth essay, Setting the Conditions for Building Knowledge, details four ways that a knowledge-rich learning environment supports literacy. It explores evidence-based tactics for engaging students with texts, details the ways varied texts can be tools, emphasizes the role of curriculum in designing for knowledge acquisition, and explains the importance of science and social studies in the overall curriculum.
The series performed so well that ASCD published a fifth “bonus essay,” Build Your Knowledge on Knowledge and Comprehension, a reading list featuring published work on reading comprehension from members of the group.
In 2022, the Scientific Advisory Committee’s Statement on the importance of knowledge went viral in social media. We applaud these leaders for continuing to bring attention to essential evidence on how children succeed as readers.