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March 28, 2023
ASCD Blog

Build Your Knowledge on Knowledge and Comprehension

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An essential reading list for literacy research.
CurriculumInstructional Strategies
Build Your Knowledge on Knowledge and Comprehension Header
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This reading list accompanies a series of articles on how educators can support literacy by bringing knowledge-building into their classrooms (read the first, second, third, and fourth posts). 
Over the last few weeks, our group of 14 scholars wrote this literacy series in response to the growing “Science of Reading” conversation, which represents a robust appetite for understanding how children learn to read and write with the greatest success. Indeed, the rich conversations about the series have only affirmed educator interest in these topics, in all of their breadth and depth.
To help readers dive even deeper, members of our Scientific Advisory Committee were asked to identify a freely-accessible article that summarizes some of their literacy-related research. We believe these articles can serve as helpful companions to the 10 practical recommendations and the research cited in our four-part series.  
Adams, M. J. (2011). Advancing our students' language and literacy: The challenge of complex texts. American Educator, 34(4), 4-11, 53. American Federation of Teachers. https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/Adams.pdf 
This article focuses on the special difficulty exhibited by U.S. students in understanding complex text and discusses causes of and solutions to this problem.
Best, R., Ozuru, Y., Floyd., R., & McNamara, D.S. (2006). Children’s text comprehension: Effects of genre, knowledge, and text cohesion. In S. A. Barab, K. E. Hay, D. T. Hickey (Eds.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 37-42). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. https://repository.isls.org/handle/1/3525  
This study examines reading comprehension in 4th grade students as a function of text genre, students' prior knowledge, and text cohesion.
Castles, A., Rastle, K., & Nation, K. (2018). Ending the reading wars: Reading acquisition from novice to expert. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19(1), 5–51.  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1529100618772271
This article provides a comprehensive review of the science of learning to read, spanning the arc of a child’s acquisition of alphabetic skills to the fluent text comprehension characteristic of skilled readers. It argues for a classroom approach to reading instruction that is developmentally-informed and addresses the wide range of knowledge and skills needed to become a reader. 
Catts, H. W. (2021-2022). Rethinking how to promote reading comprehension. American Educator. American Federation of Teachers. https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2021-2022/catts
Reading comprehension is unlike other aspects of reading in that it is not a skill that can be reduced to a single score or improved by short-term instruction/intervention, this article argues. Rather it is a condition that is created by teaching fundamental reading skills in a content-rich integrated curriculum that provides background and language knowledge.
Cunningham, A. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (1998). What reading does for the mind. American Educator, 22, 8-17. American Federation of Teachers. https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/cunningham.pdf
Exposure to print (reading volume) is a unique experiential factor, like schooling, that has long-term cumulative effects. A series of studies are described, which examine reciprocal effects of experience and schooling in children's early reading development and evaluate the subsequent cognitive consequences of differences in the volume of reading among individuals.
Duke, N. K., Ward, A. E., & Pearson, P. D. (2021). The science of reading comprehension instruction. The Reading Teacher, 74, 663-672. International Literacy Association. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1993
This article addresses the question, “What have decades of research told us about the nature of comprehension and how to develop students’ comprehension in schools?” and presents a layered model of reading comprehension instruction with knowledge building at the center.
Goldenberg, C. (1991). Instructional conversations and their classroom applications. NCRCDSLL Educational Practice Reports. UC Berkeley: Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6q72k3k9
"Instructional conversations" are discussion-based lessons geared toward creating opportunities for students' conceptual and linguistic development. They are intended to help students use knowledge and skills to understand, appreciate, and grapple with important ideas.
Hwang, H., Lupo, S. M., Cabell, S. Q., & Wang, S. (2021). What research says about leveraging the literacy block for learning. Reading In Virginia, XLII (2020-2021), 35-48. https://heyzine.com/flip-book/cf84416713.html
This article describes what it looks like to infuse science and social studies content into English language arts instruction in K-5 classrooms. Four high-impact knowledge-building practices are discussed: (1) plan units around content concepts, (2) use conceptually coherent text sets, (3) design hands-on activities in connection with reading, writing, and discussion, and (4) teach vocabulary using categorical relations among words. 
McNamara, D. S., & Kendeou, P. (2011). Translating advances in reading comprehension research to educational practice. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 4, 33-46.  https://iejee.com/index.php/IEJEE/article/view/212 
This publication explores a few key findings on reading comprehension for educators, including how comprehension assessments may miss aspects of readers' comprehension abilities and how inferencing (and practice doing so) is integral to (improving) comprehension. 
Taboada Barber, A. & Lutz Klauda, S. (2020). How reading motivation and engagement enable reading achievement: Policy implications. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7(1), 27-34. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2372732219893385
Reading motivation and engagement are malleable and shaped by children’s environments at school and at home. This article addresses practices that teachers and other practitioners can use to promote motivation in the classroom to boost reading achievement and foster lifelong readers.
Willingham, D. T. (2017, November 25). How to get your mind to read. New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/25/opinion/sunday/how-to-get-your-mind-to-read.html
The article makes the case for the importance of background knowledge for comprehension.

The Knowledge Matters Campaign promotes excellent instructional practices in schools and raises awareness of the importance of content knowledge to reading comprehension and critical thinking. The Campaign receives guidance from a distinguished group of 14 education researchers who constitute the Scientific Advisory Committee. While this group is not formally associated with the Campaign and does not directly endorse—as a group or as individuals—its work, they are committed to advancing educators' understanding of how children learn to read and write.

Marilyn Jager Adams
Visiting Scholar, Brown University

Ana Taboada Barber
Professor and Associate Dean, Research, Innovation and Partnerships, College of Education, University of Maryland

Sonia Cabell
Associate Professor of Education, Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University

Hugh Catts
Professor of Communication Science and Disorders, Florida State University

Anne E. Cunningham
Professor, Learning Sciences and Development, Berkeley School of Education, University of California, Berkeley

Nell Duke
Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture and in combined Program in Education and Psychology, University of Michigan

Lily Wong Fillmore
Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley

Claude Goldenberg
Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Education, Emeritus, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University

Danielle McNamara
Professor, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University

Kate Nation
Professor of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford

Susan Neuman
Professor, Early Childhood and Literacy Development, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University

Kathleen Rastle
Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London

David Steiner
Executive Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy

Daniel Willingham
Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia

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