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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

To teach reading, teach history, science …

Reading isn’t a “general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts,” writes cognitive scientist Dan Willingham in the New York Times. “Comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge.”

Credit: Lilli Carré

In the early grades, teachers should spend less time on literacy and more time teaching science and social studies, he writes. The more students know, they more they’ll be able to understand when they read.

Year-end standardized tests should reflect what students have studied,  he adds. “If topics are random, the test weights knowledge learned outside the classroom — knowledge that wealthy children have greater opportunity to pick up.”

“The systematic building of knowledge must be a priority in curriculum design,” Willingham writes. That will require going beyond the Common Core Standards for reading, which ignore content in favor of generic reading skills.

On Thanksgiving, eight-year-old Julia picked up Grandpa John’s computer-engineering textbook and “read” a page aloud, pausing only slightly to sound out “capacitance.” She could say all the words — and understand nothing.

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