Why is Background Knowledge Important?

Background knowledge is the foundation for additional learning and essential for reading comprehension. It can account for as much as 33% of the variance in student achievement (Marzano, 2000). Continuing to grow background knowledge becomes even more crucial in later elementary grades, as students begin to read more content-specific textbooks (Young, Moss, & Cornwell, 2007).

The more a student already knows about a topic, the easier it is for that student to understand and remember what they read about it. Background knowledge is also important for vocabulary. Students can grow their vocabularies with subject-specific new words. (Download a complete list of glossary words introduced in our nonfiction/informational titles here.) Having domain-specific knowledge can help a reader choose between multiple meanings of a word when reading text. Our Critical Thinking Conversation Cards are ideal for sparking classroom discussions and assessing background knowledge, a.k.a. Roaming Around the Known.