NYT Opinion | How to Get Your Mind to Read

This an excellent Op-Ed on the state of literacy in the U.S. and how to make it better.  If you don’t have an NYT time subscription here are the highlights. The article indicates how the proper approach to reading will increase literacy – especially in under-performing public schools in America.

Daniel T. Willingham (@DTWillingham) is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author, most recently, of “The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.”

Says in his op-ed,

“those who score well on reading test are those with broad knowledge; they usually know at least a little about the topics of the passages on the test.”

He also suggests reading comprehension is misunderstood.

“It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts” Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge”

Three significant changes in schooling

  • (1) Decreasing the time spent on literacy instruction in early grades.  Use high-information texts in early elementary grades
  • (2) Understand the importance of knowledge in reading.  What a child studies she should be good at reading and thinking on.

“Don’t test reading comprehension on random passages.  If topics are random, the test weights knowledge outside the classroom” (such as knowledge that wealthy children have greater opportunity to pick up”

  • (3) The systematic building of knowledge must be a priority in curriculum design.

Current common core state standards for English Language Arts & Literacy, states the standard values reading skills but doesn’t include what content students show know.


Willingham says state officials should write content-rich grade-level standards and support district personnel in writing curriculum to help students meet the Common Core standards.

Success stories using this method include Massachusetts in the 1990 and newcomer the Louisiana Department of Education where official says launching a coherent curriculum is vital.

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Both links provide great insight into the current state of education.

I share my experience with educating my daughters using this approach. You can read it here: “Experience is Still the Best Teacher.”

Also, to my own experience of creating a generation of readers – The “becoming literate” movement is near and dear to my heart because it means more readers for us writers.