6) What are your three main factors that you see as important in reading comprehension?
Decoding, fluency, and background knowledge. Obviously, if you can't decode, it's pretty much "game over." And if you don't have some degree of fluency, you're so occupied with decoding, that you can't pay attention to the meaning of the text. Finally, if you don't have some background knowledge to which you can relate the text, you may comprehend it, but your understanding will be pretty shallow—it will be closely tied to the text itself, and you won't be able to generalize the message of the text.
There you go: decoding, fluency, and background knowledge. Three things that don't get systematicallt taught in your typical balanced literacy classroom.
Here's a question: "To what extent have educators and policy-makes recognized the importance of background knowledge to reading comprehension?" My answer would be "not enough!" I'm specifically concerned about the role of the National Reading Panel report. That Report is becoming crystallized in state and federal legislation as the final word on reading, and the report is great. . . but it's incomplete because it doesn't say anything about the role of background knowledge in reading comprehension. If we're concerned about having students who are good readers we have to recognize that reading is an interaction between the words on the page and the knowledge in the reader's head. Without background knowledge, you can't comprehend a text to a level we would call "understanding." We need to pay attention to developing background knowledge in students from the first day that they are in school, and encouraging parents to do so even before then. It's not a trivial matter to decide what that content should be and how to deliver it. But if we want all children to be excellent readers it has to be done.
Background knowledge: the untaught subject. Read the whole thing.