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Background Knowledge: A Building Block for Reading Comprehension
Kristi Dichard

Teachers and parents have many common goals for the children in their care. Being a competent and engaged reader is high on that list. But what does it take to become a reader with great comprehension?

Studies (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Schulze, 1994; Shapiro, 2004) have shown that background knowledge plays an enormous role in reading comprehension (Hirsch, 2003). Natalie Wexler, author of The Knowledge Gap, states, “Students with more [background] knowledge have a better chance of understanding whatever text they encounter. They’re able to retrieve more information about the topic from long-term memory, leaving more space in working memory for comprehension.” 

So how can you help? Here are 3 ideas to help build background knowledge and support better reading comprehension. 


1. Picture books for all ages: Picture books provide a perfect introduction to topics in an enjoyable format, and they are not only for small children. Check out the California Young Reader Medal category: Picture Books for Older Readers for a wide variety of topics that will build background knowledge. http://www.californiayoungreadermedal.org/nominees

2. Multimedia: Not all screen time is bad. The use of virtual field trips, documentaries, and short videos can help children better understand a wide variety of topics.

3. Deep Dive: Typically children are encouraged to read about a variety of topics. However, a deep dive can also support reading comprehension. Encourage your child to compare and contrast the information from a variety of sources on the same topic. This will encourage critical thinking.

Kristi Dichard

Interim Head of Lower School


 

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