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I'm Hosting a Six-Episode Podcast on Reading Comprehension
Called "Reading Comprehension Revisited," it's the inaugural season of the Knowledge Matters Podcast.
For years, people have told me I should put out a podcast. It sounded like a great way to spread the message that our education system has taken a drastic wrong turn on reading comprehension instruction. But I didn’t know anything about podcasting, and I didn’t have time to figure it out.
Enter the Knowledge Matters Campaign—a nonprofit that advocates for knowledge-building curriculum. (I’m a board member of its parent organization, StandardsWork.) They offered to provide essential production expertise, along with other guidance.
We started talking about this possibility seriously only about five months ago, and our goal was to get the podcast out this summer, when educators would have more time to listen to it. Frankly, I was dubious.
We needed to identify people to interview—classroom teachers, district leaders, maybe a reading researcher—and then I would need to interview them. I would also need to write the scripts, incorporating audio clips from the interviews. Then I would need to record the narration, which someone would have to integrate with the interview clips. Plus a lot of other stuff I wasn’t even aware of.
But I’m delighted to report that we’ve actually done it! The first episode is set to drop on June 28th, and you can listen to the trailer right now, here. You’ll also find links on that page to various podcast platforms where you can subscribe.
Obviously, I’m not objective, but I think this podcast is incredibly powerful. I’m used to interviewing people and transcribing their quotes in articles and books—and that has its advantages. (For one thing, you can edit out all the filler words—the times when people say things like “um,” which we do a lot more than you might think.) But there is something uniquely compelling about hearing people tell their stories in their own voices.
And the people I was lucky enough to interview have some incredible stories to tell. The switch to a radically different approach to teaching isn’t always easy, and you’ll hear about some of the challenges. But you’ll also hear about the rewards: kids no longer trapped in their assigned “reading levels,” kids getting excited about digging into meaty topics, kids using vocabulary that might amaze you—and that certainly amazed their teachers. And you’ll hear about what can happen when children are asked to write about topics they’re actually learning about—and given explicit guidance in how to do that.
In addition to hearing from classroom teachers, you’ll hear from two school district leaders who pioneered the adoption of knowledge-building literacy curricula. Plus, a prominent reading researcher, Dr. Hugh Catts, will talk about how scientists—and educators—somehow came to overlook the role of knowledge in comprehension, despite lots of evidence of its importance.
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This is an enormously complex topic, and no six-episode podcast can entirely do it justice. But I hope we’re able to raise awareness of this largely hidden issue that explains much of our current reading crisis—and much of the inequality that afflicts our society.
I hope you’ll take the time to listen to the trailer, here, consider subscribing to the podcast—and help spread the word about it.