3. The Simple View of Reading

Course Progress

Lesson Overview

Incorporating phonological processing development into daily routines and activities for young children can be both enjoyable and effective. It’s important to build a strong foundation and foster phonological processing consistently. This lesson will focus on demonstrating how to develop your environment to best support young children.

Estimated Time: 20 minutes

  • EC1. Building Emergent Literacy
    • Pre-Assessment: Emergent Literacy
    • 1. Introduction to Emergent Literacy
    • 2. History of Teaching Literacy
    • 4. Assessment in Early Literacy
    • 5. Fostering Emergent Literacy
    • 6. Inclusive Approaches in Promoting Emergent Literacy
    • Post-Assessment: Phonological Processing

The Simple View of Reading

The Simple View of Reading (SVR) is a theoretical framework that posits reading comprehension as the product of two primary components: word recognition and language comprehension. According to this view, both components are essential for proficient reading.

The Simple View of Reading is represented as a formula where Reading Comprehension is the product of Word Recognition and Language Comprehension.


The ability to transform print into spoken language




The ability to understand spoken language

Language Comprehension



The ability to understand written language

Reading Comprehension

The Simple View of Reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986)

Reading Rope

The Reading Rope, developed by Dr. Hollis Scarborough, is a model that expands on the Simple View of Reading (SVR) by providing a more detailed and nuanced understanding of the components that contribute to skilled reading. While the SVR posits that reading comprehension is the product of decoding and linguistic comprehension, the Reading Rope breaks these two components into multiple intertwined strands, illustrating how various sub-skills within each component work together to create proficient reading.

Early Childhood literacy instruction supports the development of the strands at the beginning of their development. Planning intentional, purposeful, playful activities with clear expectations supports this development.

Word Recognition

Phonological Awareness 

Recognizing and manipulating sounds in spoken language.

Decoding and Spelling

Applying knowledge of letter-sound relationships to read and spell words.

Sight Recognition

Recognizing words quickly and effortlessly.

Language Comprehension

Background Knowledge

Knowledge about the world that aids in understanding texts.


Understanding the meaning of words and their relationships.

Language Structures

Knowledge of syntax (sentence structure) and semantics (meaning).

Verbal Reasoning

The ability to infer and think critically about spoken and written language.

Literacy Knowledge

Understanding print concepts and genres.

The Reading Rope provides a more granular view of the SVR’s components. While the SVR highlights decoding and linguistic comprehension as broad categories, the Reading Rope breaks these down into specific skills and sub-skills, offering a detailed map of the various elements that contribute to reading proficiency.

The detailed breakdown in the Reading Rope helps educators design more targeted and effective instructional strategies. For instance, if a student struggles with reading comprehension, the Reading Rope can help identify whether the issue lies in decoding, vocabulary, background knowledge, or another specific area.

This detailed understanding allows for more precise interventions compared to the broader categories of the SVR, leading to more effective remediation and support.

Fact or Myth?

Mastering decoding skills is sufficient for reading comprehension; once children can decode words, they will automatically understand what they read.

Decoding is necessary but not sufficient for reading comprehension. According to the Simple View of Reading, reading comprehension is the product of both decoding and linguistic comprehension. Without strong language comprehension skills, such as vocabulary, background knowledge, and understanding of language structures, students may be able to read words but not understand the text.

If a child is good at decoding, they do not need explicit vocabulary instruction as they will naturally pick up new words through reading.

Even skilled decoders require explicit vocabulary instruction to enhance their reading comprehension. Vocabulary knowledge is a critical component of linguistic comprehension, which is essential for understanding and interpreting text. Without a strong vocabulary, students may struggle to make sense of what they read, even if they can decode the words accurately.

The Simple View of Reading is too simplistic and does not account for higher-order thinking skills involved in reading comprehension, such as inferencing and critical thinking.

While the Simple View of Reading is a straightforward model, it does account for higher-order thinking skills through its linguistic comprehension component. Linguistic comprehension encompasses not only understanding vocabulary and language structures but also includes inferencing, critical thinking, and other verbal reasoning skills necessary for deep comprehension of text.

Implications for Early Literacy Instruction

The connection between emergent literacy and the Simple View of Reading lies in how emergent literacy skills contribute to the two fundamental components of reading: word recognition and language comprehension. Here’s how emergent literacy aligns with the Simple View of Reading:

In summary, the Simple View of Reading provides a valuable framework for understanding the dual components necessary for reading proficiency. Its application in early childhood literacy instruction ensures that children develop both the ability to decode words and the skills to comprehend and derive meaning from text, setting a strong foundation for future reading success.


Consider the early childhood environments in which you work, how do you incorporate playful and purposeful activities that address both emergent literacy skills and the components of the Simple View of Reading? What might you consider doing differently after completing this lesson? 

Take NotesOn the lower right-hand corner of this page, you will find a Take Notes button. Click on the button to record your response. The button looks like this → 

Learning Check

You have made it to the end of this lesson. Before you move on, we have learning-check questions for you below. Please feel free to take your time and scroll back up to look over the information.

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