There’s a good, in-depth interview on ednews.org with Dr. Matt Davis, the head of the Core Knowledge Reading Program, which will be piloted in New York City this year. He talks about the two major strands of the program: a unique phonics-based “Skills” strand, and a “Listening and Learning” strand that enables very young children to build up vocabulary and background knowledge, through read-alouds of classic literary selections, fairy tales and poems, as well as a non-fiction selelctions in history, science, art, and music.
“We think the two strands together will be a great one-two punch. The Skills Strand should teach the students to decode fluently, while the Listening and Learning strand should help ensure that they have the breadth of background knowledge they will need to understand what the words they decode.”
Davis also makes a good, if little appreciated point about Core Knowledge in general. “Although people have been slow to see this, it is a curriculum designed for social justice,” he notes. ”The well-off kids, the ones whose parents read to them, teach them about numbers and letters, take them to New York and Washington, DC in the summer, visit museums, listen to public radio, and so on – those kids are going to tend to soak up a lot of cultural literacy in the home environment, and they will be able to make sense of a lot of what they read. But other kids are not as fortunate. These children need to get their cultural literacy in the schools. These are the children the Core Knowledge Foundation is looking to help, and they are also the children we are hoping to help with the reading program.”