Literacy 7-12

Systems Change
Literacy 7-12 > Factors > Background Knowledge

Background Knowledge

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How Background Knowledge connects to...

Students build knowledge from their experiences both in and out of school. This knowledge includes their everyday cultural experiences and interactions within personal communities. As one is presented with new information, whether it is academic or cultural, these experiences may be stored in memory. Students later draw upon this information to help them connect to texts and make inferences about what they are reading.

Main Ideas

Reading comprehension is dependent upon readers' use of their Background Knowledge to create a mental representation of the texts they read. Older readers typically have more Background Knowledge to draw upon, especially for content area reading. As adolescents progress through school, their need for Background Knowledge increases with the need to integrate more content into their existing knowledge and make deeper connections with texts. Increased Background Knowledge may also facilitate online reading comprehension by aiding in Internet navigation to find topic-specific information.

A few key components of Background Knowledge are essential to literacy success:

  • Content-specific knowledge: During middle and high school, students need to build more content-specific Background Knowledge to comprehend increasingly complex texts from different disciplines. Those who lack Background Knowledge in specific subject areas may not be able to form inferences based on correct information.
  • Funds of knowledge: Students have everyday practices and life experiences that come from their participation in different cultures and communities. Educators can honor and leverage these experiences to bridge out-of-school and academic literacies.

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