The Washington Post carried a piece by E.D. Hirsch, Ph.D. Here is an excerpt:
Studies of reading comprehension show that knowing something of the topic you're reading about is the most important variable in comprehension. After a child learns to sound out words, comprehension is mostly knowledge. Many technical studies support the assertion that after students can fluently sound out words, relevant knowledge is the crucial difference between students who are good or poor readers. In light of the relevant science, an analysis of the textbooks and methods used to teach reading and language arts -- for three hours a day in many places -- indicates some of the reasons for the disappointing later results. These test-prep materials are constructed on the mistaken view that reading comprehension is a skill that can be perfected by practice, as typing can be. This how-to conception of reading has caused schools to spend a lot of unproductive time on trivial content and on drills such as "finding the main idea" and less time on history, science and the arts.
In his book, The Knowledge Deficit, Don Hirsch contends that good reading programs use resources with quality content instead of "Dick and Jane" type texts. Children learn to comprehend what they're reading material that makes sense and fits together (builds upon prior knowledge) instead of meaningless sentences such as "Dick flies a kite."
Hirsch states, "The sure road to adequate progress in reading is adequate progress in knowledge."