The Knowledge Gap
Date posted: October 17, 2019
Recently released, The Knowledge Gap:The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System – and How to Fix It makes the case for the importance of content knowledge for reading comprehension.
Here’s an excerpt from this readable book:
In another study, researchers read preschoolers from mixed socio-economic backgrounds a book about birds, a subject they had determined the higher-income kids already knew more about. When they tested comprehension, the wealthier children did significantly better. But then they read a story about a subject neither group knew anything about: made-up animals called wugs. When prior knowledge was equalized, comprehension was essentially the same. In other words, the gap in comprehension wasn’t a gap in skills. It was a gap in knowledge.
The implication is clear: abstract “reading ability” is largely a mirage constructed by reading tests. A student’s ability to comprehend a text will vary depending on his familiarity with the subject; no degree of “skill” will help if he lacks the knowledge to understand it. While instruction in the early grades has focused on “learning to read” rather than “reading to learn,” educators have overlooked the fact that part of “learning to read” is acquiring knowledge.” (p. 30)
Several articles on the same topic have appeared recently, including:
- The case for teaching about sharks and mummies, not captions and the main idea
- How Testing Kids For Skills Can Hurt Those Lacking Knowledge
- Is Building Knowledge the Best Way to Increase Literacy Achievement?
- A lack of background knowledge can hinder reading comprehension
- Research Zeroes In on a Barrier to Reading (Plus, Tips for Teachers)
- Why Content Knowledge is Crucial to Effective Critical Thinking