This article make a case for the importance of background knowledge in children's comprehension. It suggests that differences in background knowledge may account for differences in understanding text for low- and middle-income children. It then describes strategies for building background knowledge in the age of common core standards.
As students grow older, they are asked by their teachers to do more and more with the information they have stored in their brains. These types of requests require accessing higher order thinking (HOT).
The author, a professor of cognitive psychology, notes, "it's true that knowledge gives students something to think about, but… knowledge does much more than just help students hone their thinking skills, it actually makes learning easier." Factual knowledge enhances cognitive processes like problem solving and reasoning, and once you have some knowledge, the brain finds it easier to get more and more knowledge.
In the last few years, an alarm has sounded throughout the nation's middle and high schools: too many students cannot read well. It isn't that they don't know their ABCs or how to read words. It's that they cannot understand or explain what they're reading. Johnny can read, but he doesn't understand.
The federal No Child Left Behind law requires more testing of students, and has spurred some frantic and ineffectual test preparation in many schools, says the author, E. D. Hirsch, Jr. Reading tests must use unpredictable texts to be accurate measures of reading ability, but if you cannot predict the subject matter on a valid reading test, how can you prepare students? Hirsch says you can't, and, therefore, you shouldn't try. The only useful way to prepare for a reading test is indirectly by becoming a good reader of a broad range of texts, an ability that requires broad general knowledge."
This article discusses the power of reading aloud and goes a step further to discuss the power of thinking out loud while reading to children as a way to highlight the strategies used by thoughtful readers.