book

Year 1 Language and Literature

language and literature owl

Cultural Literacy

pupil thinking

E.D. Hirsch, Jr. is the founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation. Professor Hirsch developed his groundbreaking concept of cultural literacy—his idea that reading comprehension requires not just formal decoding skills but also wide-ranging background knowledge. For more than two decades, Professor Hirsch has promoted Core Knowledge and has argued passionately that schools should teach a highly specific, knowledge-based curriculum that allows children to understand things writers and speakers take for granted: knowledge that allows them to participate in democratic life.

Here is a paragraph that may help you feel what it is like to read without content knowledge. Can you make sense of it?

The procedure is actually quite simple. First you arrange things into different groups depending on their qualities. Of course, one pile may be enough depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere due to lack of facilities that is the next step, otherwise you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo any particular endeavour. That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many. In the short run, this may not seem important, but complications from doing too many can easily arise. A mistake can be expensive as well.

There are no words in the passage that you do not know, but it is still confusing and hard to understand. Reading strategies, such as trying to find the main idea and thinking about the author's main purpose, do not help you understand this paragraph. The title of the passage is 'Washing Clothes,' and that context helps the paragraph suddenly make sense because your background knowledge helps you to make a 'mental model' of what you are reading.