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American Educator
Spring 2003


Table of Contents

The Early Catastrophe (PDF)
The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3
By Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley

By age three, children from privileged families have heard 30 million more words than children from poor families. By kindergarten the gap is even greater. The consequences are catastrophic.

Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge—of Words and the World (PDF)
Scientific Insights into the Fourth-Grade Slump and the Nation's Stagnant Comprehension Scores
By E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

With a scientific consensus established on how best to teach decoding, we've reached the next reading frontier: increasing reading comprehension. Among poor children, low comprehension is ruining their chances for academic success. Among all children, comprehension scores are stagnant. Convincing research tells us that key to both problems is to systematically build children's vocabulary, fluency, and domain knowledge.

The Classic Study on Poor Children's Fourth-Grade Slump
By Jeanne S. Chall and Vicki A. Jacobs

How Words Are Learned Incrementally Over Multiple Exposures (PDF)
By Steven A. Stahl

Oral Comprehension Sets the Ceiling on Reading Comprehension
By Andrew Biemiller

Basal Readers (PDF)
The Lost Opportunity to Build the Knowledge That Propels Comprehension
By Kate Walsh

Basal readers squander the chance to provide what teachers need: a systematic program that builds the knowledge that propels comprehension.

Filling the Great Void
Why We Should Bring Nonfiction into the Early-Grade Classroom
By Nell K. Duke, V. Susan Bennett-Armistead, and Ebony M. Roberts

Listening to and reading nonfiction develops vocabulary, builds domain knowledge, and for many kids, motivates more reading. So why is it largely absent from the early grades?

Taking Delight in Words
Using Oral Language to Build Young Children's Vocabularies
By Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan

We can't wait until third and fourth grade to start building vocabulary. Before children can read complicated words and texts themselves, teacher read-alouds and playful discussions are the key to developing "jocose linguaphiles."

Teacher Responses That Further Build Word Knowledge

A Lost Eloquence
By Carol Muske-Dukes

Derided as part of a drill and kill pedagogy, the practice of memorizing poetry is almost extinct. Along with it, we're losing a vital source of eloquence—the ability to quote and an inner ear for cadence.

This article is available here.

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About American Educator

American Educator is a quarterly journal of educational research and ideas published by the American Federation of Teachers. Recent articles have focused on such topics as reducing the achievement gap between poor and affluent students, heading off student discipline problems, teaching an appreciation and understanding of democracy, the benefits of a common coherent curriculum, and other issues affecting children and education here and abroad. Total circulation, as of our most recent issue, is over 900,000.

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