The Simple View of Reading

The Simple View of Reading (SVR) reduces a complex skill (reading) into the product of decoding and linguistic comprehension (Hoover & Cough, 1990). Decoding is efficient word recognition in which one is quickly able to associate a printed unit with spoken word, whereas linguistic comprehension is the process in which lexical information (e.g., words, sentences) is interpreted and understood (Gough & Timmer, 1986). According to SVR, both decoding and linguistic comprehension are regarded as being of equal importance to reading ability (Hoover & Gough, 1990). The formula, R = D X C, captures the model, where R stands for reading, D for decoding, and C for Linguistic Comprehension (Gough & Timmer, 1986; Hoover & Gough, 1990). Therefore, reading is the product of both decoding and comprehension.

Several researchers have used the SVR to enhance reading assessment and intervention. For example, Vadasy and Sanders (2009) added a word-level intervention to repeated reading with 98 second- and third-grade struggling readers who had low fluency skills. The hypothesis, according to the SVR, was that these students scored low because they lacked decoding and repeated reading did not support their decoding needs well enough. The students scored higher than their counterparts who received just repeated reading on measures of letter-sound knowledge (d = 0.41), reading fluency (d = 0.37 to 0.38), and reading comprehension (d = 0.30 to 0.31). However, Allor, Mathes, Roberts, Jones, and Champlin (2010) found moderate to strong effects (ES = 0.37 to 1.00) on various measures of reading with students with intellectual disability if the intervention included both decoding and linguistic comprehension because the students were low in both aspects of the SVR.

Dual Coding Theory

Dual Coding Theory (DCT) is a cognitive theory that hypothesizes that both verbal and nonverbal input influences memory (Paivio, 1991). DCT has been applied to reading processes, including decoding and comprehension. According to DCT, people develop visual representations of language in the form of written letters and words. Similarly, we construct auditory representations for speech units, such as letter sounds (Sadoski & Paivio, 2004). In this way, SVR aligns with the DGT model in that reading ability is a combination of visual (decoding) and nonvisual input (linguistic comprehension).

DCT has also been used to inform reading intervention. Second-grade students retained vocabulary words better when they were paired with a visual stimulus when reading them (Cohen & Johnson, 2011), and similar effects were noted for preschoolers as well (Neuman, Newman, & Dwyer, 2011). In fact, not only did the pairing of visual and non-visual stimuli increase the reading skills of students with autism, but it also changed their neural circuitry while reading (Murdaugh, Maximo, & Капа, 2015). Below, we will discuss assessment and intervention for decoding/visual and linguistic comprehension/nonvisual.


Students who struggle to learn how to read often have limited decoding skills (Hoien-Tengesdal & Tonnessen, 2011), but explicitly teaching decoding in first grade was related to increased reading growth (Taylor, Pearson, Peterson, & Rodríguez, 2003), and meta-analytic research supported the positive effects (National Reading Panel, 2000). Gough and Tunmer (1986) cautioned that simplifying decoding to the ability to sound out words does not fully encompass what it means to decode. As they explained, decoding, according to SVR, describes the process of reading isolated words quickly and accurately. If a reader only has knowledge of letter-sound correspondence, they will not be able to recognize many English words that do not adhere to regular spelling rules. Words such as bought and enough illustrate how the ability to sound out letters is not sufficient on its own to facilitate reading. Yet, letter-sound correspondence is a necessary component to facilitate decoding because it will allow readers to recognize a majority of English words; thus, instructors should focus on explicit instruction of these skills.


Both the SVR and DCT emphasize the importance of decoding within reading development. Thus, assessments that are aligned with the two theories should evaluate how well students decode words. Assessing a reader’s ability to pronounce nonsense words (Hoover & Gough, 1990), such as with curriculum-based measures of nonsense word fluency (NWF), is an easily administered method to examine decoding. Additionally, standardized measures of word attack or any measure of nonsense or pseudo words assesses decoding. As indicated within Table 10.2, there are a number of norm-referenced achievement measures that assess decoding.

In addition to measures of NWF, pseudo words, or word attack, low accuracy (reading less than 93 percent of the words correctly) when reading connected text could suggest difficulties in decoding (Bums, Haegele, & Peterson-Brown, 2014).

TABLE 10.2 Assessments and interventions based on the Simple View of Reading and Dual Coding Theory


Example Assessments

Example Interventions


Accuracy (GORT-5)

Barton Reading &


Decodable Words (FastBridge)

Nonsense Word Decoding (KTEA-3) Nonsense Word Fluency (e.g.,

Aimsweb, DIBELS, or FastBridge) Pseudoword Decoding (WIAT-III) Word Attack (WJ-IV or WRMT-3)


Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites

Road to the Code


Sound Partners

System 44


Listening Comprehension (KTEA-3

Making Connections



Questioning the Author


Comprehension (GORT-5)

Passage Comprehension (WJ-IV or


Reading Comprehension (KTEA-3 or


Read About

Reciprocal Teaching

Note. GORT-5 = Gray Oral Reading Test (5th ed.), KTEA-3 = Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (3rd ed.); WIAT-I1I = Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (3rd ed.); WJ-IV = Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement (4th ed.); WRMT-3 = Woodcock Reading Mastery Test (3rd ed.).

Spelling is also closely linked to decoding; consequently, low spelling skills may indicate a decoding deficit in need of intervention (Carver, 2003).


Low scores on a nonsense-word fluency, word attack, or spelling measure may indicate that a child is in need of an intervention that targets decoding, which is important according to both the SVR and DCT. According to the National Reading Panel (2000), decoding interventions should be systematic, and should (a) teach letter sounds and letter combination sounds, (b) have the student practice reading the sounds in words that contain all of the sounds that they have been taught (or already knew), and (c) read connected text that contains the words made up of sounds that they have been taught (i.e., decodable text; Shanahan, 2006). Although nonsense words may be useful in identifying decoding deficits, they should not be used as part of a decoding intervention other than to perhaps be used as a weekly assessment to monitor student progress. There are several examples of effective decoding interventions in Table 10.2, but readers can also obtain intervention materials and activities from various websites (e.g., Florida Center for Reading Research:, or Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites:

Linguistic Comprehension/Non-visual

Linguistic comprehension refers to one’s ability to interpret lexical information and glean understanding from it (Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Hoover & Gough, 1990). Reading comprehension is a similar process where one deciphers written information through visual input rather than auditory input (Hoover & Gough, 1990). DGT suggests that to successfolly decode text a student must be able to understand the relationship between phonemes and graphemes and how that relationship contributes to the creation of a word (Squires, 2018). Accurate interpretation of the visual stimuli and pairing with meaning must be automatic processes in order for proficient reading to occur (Squires, 2018).


To assess linguistic comprehension ability, it is necessary to measure one’s capability to understand language, which can be done by having students listen to a story and then summarize the text or answer questions aloud (Hoover & Gough, 1990). Reading comprehension is assessed in a similar way by having students read printed material and respond to questions afterward (Hoover & Gough, 1990). There are a number of published listening and reading comprehension tests, some examples of which are included in Table 10.2. Listening comprehension tests are more closely aligned with the SVR and DGT because they more closely tap linguistic comprehension. Reading comprehension also measures tap linguistic comprehension, but is more influenced by the decoding side of the SVR equation than are measures of linguistic comprehension. Thus, practitioners who are interested in using reading theory to inform their practice could consider using measures of listening comprehension as part of their assessment batteries.


Research demonstrates that a rich, complex understanding of vocabulary is essential for reading comprehension, and, thus, learning in almost all core subjects (i.e., reading, mathematics, writing; Biemiller, 2006). A person with a limited vocabulary can, therefore, be expected to experience difficulty' comprehending a text if the number of unknown words is too high (LervSg & Aukrust, 2010). Preteaching vocabulary is an effective way to increase vocabulary and comprehension in children (Graves, Juel, & Graves, 2001; Linan-Thompson & Vaughn, 2007). Preteaching can be as simple as asking students questions about the topic and reviewing key concepts (Graves et al., 2001) or teaching the two to three words that will be central to the meaning of the text before the student reads the text (Bums, Dean, & Foley, 2004). Either approach can increase reading comprehension with struggling readers and does not require too much time, as a 5—10-minute intervention can be sufficient (Bums, Hodgson, Parker, & Fremont, 2011).

Remaining Questions

One area of reading that is not addressed by SVR and DCT is reading fluency. Although both decoding and comprehension are crucial elements of reading, Burns et al. (2011) demonstrated that reading fluency is necessary to facilitate comprehension. The authors found that second-grade students must achieve a minimum oral reading fluency of 63 words per minute on grade-level passages for adequate comprehension (Bums et al., 2011). Therefore, a model that includes fluency may better reflect reading processes.

There have also been recent studies that have concluded that perhaps reading is not as simple as outlined by SVR and DCT (Florit & Cain, 2011; Ouellette, & Beers, 2010), and perhaps it is vocabulary that connects both aspects of the two theories (Tunmer & Chapman, 2012). More research is needed, but the SVK and DCT remain two well-researched theories that parsimoniously describe reading and inform assessment and intervention.

Case Study—Reading

Tom (pseudonym) was a student in a third-grade classroom who attended Williams Elementary School. He had good attendance and was a hard worker, but he consistently did not pass benchmark screenings for reading and was beginning to demonstrate behavioral difficulties (e.g., time on task during reading ranged from 70 percent to 80 percent). The teacher worked with Tom each day to reinforce comprehension strategies that were taught in class and to have him read brief passages to her to build fluency.

The school psychologist assessed Tom’s reading skills and found that he read between 70 percent and 87 percent of the words correctly on grade-level reading probes, and his fluency rates ranged from 24 words/minute to 35 words/minute. The accuracy scores below 93 percent indicated that he was struggling to break the code as he read. The school psychologist could have assessed Tom’s decoding skills, but decided that the low accuracy was sufficient data. Tom’s listening comprehension was assessed with the Listening Comprehension subset of a standardized achievement test (see Table 10.2), which fell at the 48th percentile and suggested adequate comprehension. The latter score confused the teacher, but the school psychologist recognized that, based on the SVR, reading is the product of both decoding and comprehension and hypothesized that Tom needed more work on his word reading skills rather than comprehension.

The teacher and school psychologist decided to focus on a word-level intervention, which consisted of determining the reading lessons for the week, finding the unknown words in the reading passages, and preteaching the unknown words each morning using Incremental Rehearsal. After six weeks of intervention, Tom went from reading 70 percent to 87 percent correct before the intervention began, to consistently reading more than 93 percent of the words correctly. His behavioral difficulties also improved dramatically. His time on task increased to consistently over 90 percent. Tom completed the state test in April of this third-grade year, and, much to his teacher’s surprise, he passed the state test in third grade despite scoring in the at-risk range on a reading screener just a few months earlier.

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