Developing general knowledge is vital to teaching reading:

From The Atlantic, a good piece on why reading scores across the country are stagnant and how the teaching of reading as it exists in many schools is perpetuating that stagnation.  Teaching reading “skills” in isolation without content and vocabulary to support the growth of general knowledge will always fail the student.

This article further says kids should be given texts designed for the grade they’re in, which I half agree with; I also believe it’s important to find pertinent material that’s immediately accessible for the struggling student and push for frequent practice to increase fluency and stamina.  It’s a balance, just like all the other worthwhile things in the world!

“Cognitive scientists have known for decades that simply mastering comprehension skills doesn’t ensure a young student will be able to apply them to whatever texts they’re confronted with on standardized tests and in their studies later in life.

“One of those cognitive scientists spoke on the Tuesday panel: Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who writes about the science behind reading comprehension. Willingham explained that whether or not readers understand a text depends far more on how much background knowledge and vocabulary they have relating to the topic than on how much they’ve practiced comprehension skills. That’s because writers leave out a lot of information that they assume readers will know. If they put all the information in, their writing would be tedious.

“But if readers can’t supply the missing information, they have a hard time making sense of the text. If students arrive at high school without knowing who won the Civil War they’ll have a hard time understanding a textbook passage about Reconstruction.”

Schools Are Failing to Teach Kids How to Read – The Atlantic