Season 8, Episode 1

Knowledge and comprehension: Never one without the other, with Reid Smith and Pamela Snow

In the premiere episode of Season 8 of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan Lambert is joined by guests Reid Smith and Pamela Snow to lay the groundwork for a season entirely centered on knowledge and knowledge-building. Reid and Pamela—of the SOLAR Lab at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia—recently co-authored (along with many others) a review of the literature on background knowledge and literacy. In this discussion, they share what they learned, including some surprising takeaways. This episode examines the  complexity of building background knowledge, the important role it plays in literacy, and the reasons we’ve decided to spend a whole season exploring it!

Meet our guest(s):

Pamela Snow

Pamela Snow, Ph.D., is a professor of cognitive psychology in the School of Education at La Trobe University in Australia and co-director of the Science of Language and Reading (SOLAR) Lab. She is both a speech-language pathologist and a registered psychologist, and her research focuses on ensuring language and literacy success across the school years.

Reid Smith

Reid Smith is an elementary school teacher and curriculum leader at a school in Australia, and is also a doctoral candidate at La Trobe University’s Science of Language and Reading (SOLAR) Lab. His research focuses on the contribution of background knowledge to the act of reading. He is also co-CEO of Ochre Education, a not-for-profit organization committed to closing equity gaps by providing teachers with free, high-quality curriculum materials.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Susan is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Susan is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


“This idea of having a coherent curriculum that systematically builds knowledge and skills over time is something that we think is really important for our kids.” —Reid Smith
“I'd just point to making sure that you really give students the opportunity to learn more about the world that they're in and the cultures that we have in the past, present, and future. They're all really important things for our kids. And, you know, from an instrumentalist point of view, because it helps their reading comprehension.” —Reid Smith
"I think we respect teacher autonomy when we give them the knowledge that they need about how the English writing system works, right across the Reading Rope, and how the English language works, right across the Reading Rope.” —Pamela Snow