The ability to decode text is a critical skill. However, the ability to accurately decode text does not ensure comprehension of what is read. Scarborough’s reading rope model describes the many strands of skilled reading. Background knowledge is only one strand included in language comprehension and is necessary for readers to make sense of new ideas and situations. It includes all of the knowledge acquired through life experiences and learning. The more background knowledge a child has, the more she can comprehend what is read.
“If we do not spend large amounts of time reading aloud and discussing challenging material with children – material that is well beyond their ability to decode with understanding, we miss a critical opportunity to increase their knowledge of language and of the world – the kind of knowledge that will prove decisive for reading in later years.” (Hirsch, 2006)
Without the necessary background knowledge, a reader cannot make sense of what is decoded. A lack of background knowledge especially affects higher order thinking such as inferencing or making connections to other content and experiences.
Project Manager, Progress in the General Curriculum Network
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