The Knowledge Matters Podcast podcast

“Think what a better society we’ll have" | Reading Comprehension Revisited

15 Sekunden vorwärts
15 Sekunden vorwärts

American education has a number of serious problems – and our failure to start building kids' knowledge early is a fundamental one. By now you know that reading comprehension is complicated and as you’ll hear, so is the explanation for what has gone wrong with the way American schools have approached it.

In the sixth and final episode of "The Knowledge Matters Podcast: Reading Comprehension Revisited", Natalie will explain how we ended up in a place it’s not clear anyone wanted to go, in the grip of a reading crisis that goes far beyond the important issue of how we teach students to decode. Not only do two thirds of students test below the proficient level in reading, many Americans lack vital knowledge about the world they live in. For example, scores on national tests in American History hit a new low in 2022: only 14% of eighth graders scored proficient or above, and 40% scored below the "basic" level. Scores in civics are only slightly better. And students don’t necessarily learn more about these subjects after eighth grade: one survey, for example, found that 11% of US adults haven't heard of or aren't sure if they've heard of the Holocaust. For millennials, the figure is 22%.

Closing knowledge gaps is important for several reasons. It's important for the untold numbers of students whose potential remains to be unlocked – students who might otherwise go through school and life, feeling like they’re failures, when in fact it's the system that has failed them. It's important for society, which will otherwise be deprived of those students’ potential. And it's important for democracy, which depends on a citizenry that can understand the world well enough to make informed decisions.

Because, as Spring Cook, the educator you met in Episode 1 put it:

It is a matter of equity, it's a matter of democracy, and when we're able to give students those skills and that knowledge at an early age, then think what a better society will have.

For more information about the information in this episode, visit the episode webpage on the Knowledge Matters Podcast website.

This podcast is produced by the Knowledge Matters Campaign. You can learn more about our work at and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Search the knowledgematters hashtag and join this important conversation. If you'd like to get in touch with Natalie, you can contact her through her website,

Production by Sarah Gilmore and Aidan Shea. Original music and sound engineering by Aidan Shea. Narration recorded at Bamboo Recording Studios.

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