Language Arts Canadian Lead Primary School

The Simple View of Reading

“Mention the Simple View of Reading to a group of primary school teachers, and you will most likely be met with expressions of curious “tell me more”, but I am yet to encounter teachers who report that they learnt about this model (introduced in the 1980s) in their initial teacher education. If The Simple View of Reading not the intellectual property of teachers, for heaven’s sake, whose intellectual property is it?

Pamela Snow 2019

The Simple View of Reading (Gough & Tunmer 1986) states that skill level in reading comprehension can be predicted by measuring two processes:

  1. word recognition multiplied by
  2. language comprehension.

So, the better you can convert the letters on the page into sounds and words, and the more words you understand, the more you’ll be able to comprehend what you’re reading.

The Simple View of Reading is a logical, testable formula grounded in decades of research.

The Simple View of Reading

The SVR states that skill level in reading comprehension can be predicted by measuring two processes:

  1. word recognition multiplied by
  2. language comprehension.

So, the better you can convert the letters on the page into sounds and words, and the more words you understand, the more you’ll be able to comprehend what you’re reading.

This works the other way too. If you cannot identify words on a page, you will struggle to comprehend what you are reading. Your reading comprehension is directly affected by your word level reading ability.

Let’s take some simple examples using two separate tests:

  1. A listening comprehension test
  2. A single-word reading test

Four students in Grade 3 are tested. Each test has a possible high score of 1 (all items correct on both measures). Here are their scores:

 

Listening comprehension

Word reading

Reading comprehension

Agnes

0.5

0.75

0.375

Bethany

0.75

0.5

0.375

Calvin

1

1

1

David

0.5

0.5

0.25

Notice how the reading comprehension scores for Agnes and Bethany are the same, yet their profiles are remarkably different. You would not be able to differentiate these students with a simple ‘read aloud and answer questions’ test, nor would you be able to recommend appropriate intervention.

Here are their stories:

Agnes is in year three and has memorised a vast amount of whole words. On her reading test, she scored reasonably highly as a result. Her linguistic comprehension is lower. She has a limited vocabulary and background knowledge. Her reading comprehension score is 0.375.

Bethany has lots of trouble storing and remembering words. She has a large oral vocabulary though and is very knowledgeable, although she isn’t learning anything new from reading, so when she is tested she gets the same scores Agnes: 0.375.

Does this mean their interventions should be the same, or do they need a different focus from one another?

Calvin’s scores showed that his decoding and linguistic comprehension are at the standard expected from a child his age. His score is one that means he is very likely to be able to understand what he reads and his linguistic comprehension and his reading proficiency are likely to increase overtime without intervention.

David bottomed out on both measures. He is the one in most need of the highest quality intervention and his response to intervention may be slower than Agnes’s or Bethany’s.

In Language Arts, valid and reliable assessment with a view to separating the underlying processes from one another helps us to target our intervention and make predictions about response and expectations.

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