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Gina Cervetti speaks with Education Week about the role of background knowledge in the science of reading

April 24, 2023

In a recent webinar, participants unpacked the reading instruction buzzword “knowledge-building.”


Associate Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture Gina Cervetti recently joined Ana Taboada Barber, Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Maryland, and Education Week staff writer Sarah Schwartz for a webinar titled, “How Background Knowledge Fits Into the ‘Science of Reading’.”

Among the key takeaways from their conversation, Cervetti noted that much of the research on background knowledge and reading has been focused on academic or experiential knowledge. 

“But if we go back to the earliest research on the relationship between reading comprehension and background knowledge, there was a focus on…cultural knowledge,” Cervetti said.

Children come into school with different variations and combinations of all of these kinds of knowledge—academic, experiential, and cultural—and teachers can draw on all of them as assets, Cervetti said.

Over the course of the webinar, the speakers also discussed the benefits of comprehension strategies and how schools can help students grow their knowledge.

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Professor, Marsal Family School of Education