The Simple View of Reading is a theory that attempts to define the skills that contribute to early reading comprehension. According to the original theory, an individual's reading comprehension is the product of her decoding skill and language comprehension (Gough & Tunmer,1986). The key idea is that both the ability to decode and language comprehension are necessary for reading comprehension.
Based upon more recent advances in reading research, the decoding "side" of the equation may be referred to as fluent word reading. This term acknowledges the importance of automaticity and fluency in word reading.
fluent word reading X language comprehension = reading comprehension
Fluent word reading and language comprehension are broad categories that each break down into a range of component factors.
Many research studies have provided support for this theory by demonstrating that an elementary-age child's reading comprehension ability can be predicted by his ability to fluently and accurately read words, together with his language comprehension ability. Studies have shown that both fluent word reading and language comprehension each have a substantial impact on reading comprehension in young children; as children get older the relative importance of language contribution increases (Lonigan, Burgess, & Schatschneider, 2018).
The Simple View is most useful for understanding the abilities that underly early reading comprehension. Studies supporting the Simple View of Reading have primarily relied on simple assessments of reading comprehension; they typically do not measure "deeper" comprehension that might include elements such as critical reading or analysis of author's craft, which matter for long-term literacy development (Snow, 2018). The Simple View is limited in its ability to describe what underlies this deeper comprehension. However, for teachers of young children, this theory offers a powerful way to understand the abilities that contribute to emerging reading comprehension.
"Over time, my knowledge and ideas about literacy instruction have changed dramatically. It really was driven by students who really struggled to learn how to read. That just led me down a path of consistently questioning and pushing my own knowledge and practice to find what worked best for each child."
Reading Specialist and Doctoral Research Fellow
Speech and Language (SAiL) Literacy Lab at MGH Institute
Gough, P.B. & Tunmer, W.E. (1986). Decoding, reading, and reading disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7, 6–10.
Lonigan, C., Burgess, S., & Schatschneider, C. Examining the Simple View of Reading With Elementary School Children: Still Simple After All These Years. Remedial and Special Education, 39(5), 317–323.
Snow, C. (2018). Simple and Not-so-Simple Views of Reading. Remedial and Special Education, 39(5), 317–323.
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Last Updated: June 10, 2021
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