Models of Reading
Reading has been studied extensively around the world over the past fifty years in multiple fields, including:
Scientific research has produced consistent, converging evidence about how reading and writing skills develop for all learners, why some learners have difficulty learning to read and write, and how educators can leverage assessment and instruction for both prevention and intervention.
Application of The Science of Reading (SoR) increases equitable access to learning and improves student learning outcomes for all learners, including dyslexic learners.
The following models of reading support understanding of the complexities of proficient reading, as well as characteristics of the most common learning disability: dyslexia.
Each model was developed independently and each provides essential insights which collectively illustrate the reading process.
The Simple View of Reading (1986)
The Simple View of Reading (SVR) is a broad framework for understanding reading. It was first proposed by Philip Gough and William Tunmer in 1986 and has been validated in numerous studies since then (Hoover & Gough, 1990; Catts, Adlof, & Wesimer, 2006).
In the SVR, reading comprehension is the product of decoding ability (word recognition) times language (listening) comprehension.
In this "equation" learners need both decoding skills and listening comprehension skills to understand text they read. If a learner is not proficient in both domains, reading comprehension is negatively impacted.
Figure 1. Adapted from Gough and Tunmer (1986).
With "1" representing a proficient score, a learner who demonstrates basic word recognition skills and proficient language comprehension skills will demonstrate only basic reading comprehension.
WR x LC = RC
.25 x 1 = .25
The opposite is also true. A student who demonstrates proficient word recognition skills and a basic language comprehension skills will demonstrate only basic reading comprehension.
WR x LC = RC
1 X .25 = .25
Strength in word recognition or language comprehension cannot compensate for weakness in the other domain. Inefficiency in either area contributes to the result of weaker reading comprehension. Reading comprehension will never be higher than the weaker of the two domains.
WR x LC = RC
.5 X 1 = .5
5 X .5 = .25
.75 X .5 = .375
For more information, see the article Reading Rockets: The Simple View of Reading.
Dyslexia Connection: The primary deficit in individuals with dyslexia is decoding (word recognition).
Hollis Scarborough's Reading Rope (2001)
Dr. Hollis Scarborough conceived The Reading Rope in 1992 or earlier. She created this visual metaphor to represent a literature review of relevant reading research at the time for presentations to educators and parents, and published it in 2001.
The Reading Rope illustrates the complexity of skilled reading and its development over time. It demonstrates how language comprehension and word recognition skills emerge separately, develop concurrently, and, over time, integrate into a strong rope that represents skilled reading.
Weakness in any strand can compromise skilled reading.
Figure 2 - Scarborough’s Reading Rope: A Groundbreaking Infographic (International Dyslexia Association, 2018).
The upper strands of the Reading Rope, representing Language Comprehension skills, become increasingly strategic over time:
Background Knowledge (facts, concepts, etc.) - Facts and concepts that serve as the basis to understand written or oral language and to acquire new knowledge.
Vocabulary (breadth, precision, links, etc.) - The knowledge of words, including breadth and depth of word meanings as well as the relationship of words to one another. Vocabulary knowledge is an unconstrained skill that grows and deepens over time.
Language Structures (syntax, semantics, etc.) - Sentence grammar and sentence structure variation, meanings of words in the context of phrases, clauses, sentences, and text.
Verbal Reasoning (inference, metaphor, etc.) - Combining background knowledge with written text to create understanding and draw conclusions. Verbal reasoning includes the understanding of non-literal metaphors and other figures of speech as well as the ability to infer things that are not explicitly stated in a text.
Literacy Knowledge (print concepts, genres, etc.) - Familiarity with the conventions and mechanics of written language, including punctuation, print concepts, and the characteristics of different text genres of narrative and informational text.
The lower strands of the Reading Rope, representing Word Recognition skills, become increasingly automatic over time:
Phonological Awareness (syllables, phonemes, etc.) - An umbrella term used to describe an awareness of and ability in oral language to distinguish and manipulate words in a sentence, syllables in a word, onset-rimes in a syllable, and individual phonemes.
Decoding (alphabetic principle, spelling-sound correspondences) - Understanding the alphabetic principle that our letters and letter combinations represent speech sounds; Using sound-letter correspondences to read (decode) and spell (encode) words.
Sight Recognition (of familiar words) - A sight word is any word that a reader instantly recognizes and identifies unconsciously and without effort. Literate adults have a collection of anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 sight words that have been orthographically mapped into their memory. Orthographic mapping occurs when the pronunciation, spelling, and meanings of a word are linked and stored in memory.
Dyslexia Connection: The word recognition strands of the Reading Rope are the main areas of weakness for learners with characteristics of dyslexia. Individuals with characteristics of dyslexia may also have difficulties in some of the language comprehension strands of the Reading Rope, either as a secondary consequence to limited reading experience or due to a co-occurring language comprehension disability. For a person with dyslexia, orthographic mapping often requires many more exposures to a word than is the case for a typically developing reader. Mastery of all strands of the rope are necessary for proficient reading.
Podcasts & Video about Scarborough’s Reading Rope
Deconstructing the Rope: An Introduction with Dr. Jane Oakhill - S3-01 Science of Reading: The Podcast
Deconstructing the Rope: Word recognition - S3-02 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Alice Wiggins
Deconstructing the Rope: Decoding - S3-03 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Louisa Moats
Deconstructing the Rope: Sight recognition - S3-05 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Dr. Bruce McCandliss
Deconstructing the Rope: Background knowledge -S3-06 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan Neuman
Deconstructing the Rope: Language comprehension - S3-08 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Sonia Cabell
Deconstructing the Rope: Vocabulary - S3-09 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Nancy Hennessy
Deconstructing the Rope: Language structures: S3-10 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Kate Cain
Deconstructing the Rope: A look back at Season 3 - S3-13 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan Lambert
The Five Components of Reading Instruction (2000)
In 2000, the National Reading Panel issued a report that identifies five essential components of reading instruction. These components include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, and are often represented as pillars or puzzle pieces as seen in Figure 2.
Figure 3. Adapted from National Reading Panel Report (2000).
Figure 4. Adapted from Gough and Tunmer (1986) and National Reading Panel (2000).
Figure 4 illustrates how The Five Components of Reading Instruction are related to the Simple View of Reading (SVR).
Phonemic awareness and phonics & word study instruction contribute to the development of the word recognition domain of the SVR.
Phonemic awareness encompasses the ability to hear, attend to, and manipulate phonemes, the smallest unit of sound in a word that affect meaning. Manipulation tasks include the ability to identify, blend, segment, add, delete, substitute, and reverse the order of speech sounds. Blending is necessary for reading, and segmenting is necessary for spelling. The more advanced manipulation skills of addition, deletion, substitution, and reversal promote the development of automaticity in reading (Kilpatrick, 2015).
Phonics & word study enhance phonetic decoding and encoding with an understanding of syllable structures, spelling conventions, meanings of prefixes, suffixes, and root or base words (morphology), and the impact of word origins (etymology).
Fluency is accurate reading with appropriate speed and phrasing (prosody). It is characteristic of a reader who has moved from sound-by-sound decoding of words to the effortless reading that comes with ultimately recognizing most words automatically "by sight." It creates a bridge between word recognition and language comprehension by allowing the learner to concentrate more fully on the meaning of what they are reading.
Vocabulary instruction is primarily important to the language comprehension domain of the SVR, while also supporting efficient word recognition.
Comprehension can refer either to the language (listening) comprehension domain or to the ultimate goal of reading comprehension.
Dyslexia Connection: Phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency are the main areas of weakness for individuals with dyslexia.
Podcasts & Videos About the 5 Essential Components of Reading Instruction
Etymology of the English language, S1-17 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Freddy Hiebert
The importance of fluency instruction, S1-04 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Tim Rasinski
Reading Fluency Instruction: What It Is, Why It's Important, and How to Assess It, Research to Practice Podcast, Dr. Jan Hasbrouck
Why Phonological Awareness is Important to Reading, Research to Practice Podcast, Dr. Melanie Schuele, professor and researcher at Vanderbilt University
Wisconsin DPI - A Model Representing the Reading Process (2020)
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's Model Representing the Reading Process has similarities to other models of reading including Foundational Skills (Decoding - Word Recognition Skills) and Language Skills (Language Comprehension Skills).
The Wisconsin DPI reading model also includes Cognitive Skills which emphasize the conscious processes that students learn to use when applying the Language Skills.
A Model Representing the Reading Process
Figure 5. From Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (2021).
In addition, the Wisconsin DPI model references elements in the border – metacognition, interest and relevancy, choice and access, and social/emotional learning - that may influence a student’s ability or motivation to learn and apply the Foundational Skills, Language Skills, and Cognitive Skills. Although not specifically noted in the model, these relationships are often bidirectional. Metacognition (thoughtful awareness of one’s learning process), motivation, social/emotional needs, interest, and relevance act as a positive or negative factor in the skill building progress, but the degree of timely and explicit skill building also has a positive or negative effect on metacognition, motivation, social/emotional well-being, interest, and relevancy.
*Start at 19:30 for an explanation of the Wisconsin DPI Model of the Reading Process
Dyslexia Connection: The Foundational Skills in Wisconsin DPI's model are the main areas of weakness for learners with characteristics of dyslexia. Individuals with characteristics of dyslexia may also have difficulties in some Language Skills and Cognitive Skills, either as a secondary consequence of limited reading experience or due to a co-occurring language comprehension disability.
After a structured literacy intervention, individuals with dyslexia may develop accurate Foundational Skills, but may lack the automatic sight recognition of familiar words that is necessary for consistent Fluency in Context and Reading Comprehension.
In addition, students with characteristics of dyslexia are often described as distracted, unmotivated, or having behavioral issues that interfere with learning. However, with highly explicit, systematic, and cumulative instruction, those issues frequently disappear and students with dyslexia are capable of learning foundational reading skills. Without this type of instruction, they often fail.
Motivation to read is tightly linked to reading ability. In what is known as the “Matthew Effect,” (Stanovich) from the Bible story in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, new readers with good skills read more and improve their skills, knowledge, and vocabulary, while those with poor reading skills read less, have fewer opportunities to improve their skills, and miss out on building knowledge and vocabulary. Students with dyslexia need robust instruction in foundational skills to avoid this downward spiral.
Dyslexia has a high correlation with diagnoses of anxiety, depression, and acting-out behavior, due to feelings of low self-worth that come from failing at elementary school’s most important task: learning to read. Typically, academic intervention needs to be combined with behavior and psychological intervention to prevent or lessen these problems.
Models of Reading & 2020 Wisconsin ELA Standards
The Wisconsin Standards for English Language Arts were updated in May 2020.
The Foreword from then State Superintendent, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, notes, "Wisconsin’s 2020 standards for English language arts focus on ensuring every student has the ability to comprehend and create text because it is the primary way we share information and ideas. To comprehend and create texts, students need instruction in comprehension, writing, speaking, listening, and reading foundational skills. To this end, Wisconsin Standards for English Language Arts result in the following:
a. Wisconsin’s youngest students will learn reading foundational skills – including developing an understanding of phonics through explicit, systematic instruction – in order to comprehend and create text.
b. Wisconsin students will be flexible writers, composing a variety of formal, creative, and reflective writing.
c. Wisconsin students will understand how language functions in different contexts and cultures, strategically using English based on audience, task, and purpose."
Figure 6 illustrates connections between the Simple View of Reading, the National Reading Panel's Five Components of Reading Instruction, and the Wisconsin ELA Standards.
Figure 6. Adapted from Gough and Tunmer (1986), National Reading Panel (2000), and the WI ELA Standards (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2020).
Dyslexia Connection: Students exhibiting characteristics of dyslexia may require diagnostic assessment of foundational skills along with structured literacy instruction and intervention beyond grade 5 to become accurate in Reading Foundational Skills and proficient in the Speaking & Listening, Language, Reading, and Writing Wisconsin ELA Standards.
Podcasts & Videos About the Science of Reading
Applying the Science of Reading at any grade level, S4-01 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Laura Cusack
The missing link in reading comprehension, S1-07 Science of Reading: The Podcast, Anne Lucas
Additional Resources About the Science of Reading
Amplify. (2021, June 14). Science of Reading Primer, Part One. https://amplify.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Amplify_Booklet-Primer1_111919__Digital-Pages_.pdf
Catts, H. W., Adlof, S. M., & Weismer, S. E. (2006). Language Deficits in Poor Comprehenders: A Case for the Simple View of Reading. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49(2), 278–293. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2006/023)
Defining Movement. (2021, June 20). The science of reading: A defining guide. https://www.whatisthescienceofreading.org/science-of-reading-guide
Ehri, L. C. (2013). Orthographic Mapping in the Acquisition of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18(1), 5–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888438.2013.819356
Ehri, L.C. , & Snowling, M.J. (2004). Developmental variation in word recognition. In C. A. Stone , E. R. Silliman , B. J. Ehren , & K. Apel (Eds.), Handbook of language and literacy: Development and disorders (pp. 433-460). New York: Guilford.
Farrell, L., Hunter, M., Davidson, M., & Osenga, T. (2020, October 1). The Simple View of Reading. Reading Rockets. https://www.readingrockets.org/article/simple-view-reading
Gough, P. B. & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, Reading, and Reading Disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7(1), 6–10. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193258600700104
Hoover, W. A., & Gough, P. B. (1990). The simple view of reading. Reading and Writing, 2(2), 127–160. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00401799
Kilpatrick, D. A. (2015). Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties (Essentials of Psychological Assessment) (1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons.
National Reading Panel. (2000, April 13). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read (Reports of the Subgroups). National Institutes of Health. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/der/branches/cdbb/nationalreadingpanelpubs
Scarborough, H. S. (2001). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice. In S. Neuman & D. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook for research in early literacy (pp. 97–110). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Seidenberg, M. S., & McClelland, J. L. (1989). A distributed, developmental model of word recognition and naming. Psychological Review, 96(4), 523–568. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295x.96.4.523
Simos, P., Fletcher, J., Bergman, E., Breier, J., Foorman, B., Castillo, E., Davis, R., Fitzgerald, M., & Papanicolaou, A. (2002). Dyslexia-specific brain activation profile becomes normal following successful remedial training. Neurology, 58(8), 1203–1213. https://doi.org/10.1212/wnl.58.8.1203
World Innovation Summit for Education [WISE]. (2013, October 25). How the Brain Learns to Read - Prof. Stanislas Dehaene [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25GI3-kiLdo
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2020, May). Wisconsin Standards for English Language Arts. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/standards/New%20pdfs/ELAStandards2020.pdf
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2021, July). Wisconsin’s Informational Guidebook on Dyslexia and Related Conditions. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/reading/Dyslexia_Guidebook.pdf
Figure 1. Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). The Simple View of Reading [Infographic]. Adapted from Decoding, Reading, and Reading Disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7(1), 6–10. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193258600700104
Figure 2. International Dyslexia Association. (2018). Scarborough’s Reading Rope: A Groundbreaking Infographic. https://dyslexiaida.org/scarboroughs-reading-rope-a-groundbreaking-infographic/
*originally appeared in the following publication: Scarborough, H. S. (2001). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice. In S. Neuman & D. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook for research in early literacy (pp. 97–110). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Figure 3. National Reading Panel. (2000, April 13). The 5 Components of Reading Instruction [Infographic]. Adapted from the Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read (Reports of the Subgroups). National Institutes of Health. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/der/branches/cdbb/nationalreadingpanelpubs
Figure 4. Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986) and National Reading Panel (2000, April 13). The Simple View of Reading and The 5 Components of Reading Instruction [Infographic]. Adapted from Decoding, Reading, and Reading Disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7(1), 6–10. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193258600700104 and Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read (Reports of the Subgroups). National Institutes of Health. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/der/branches/cdbb/nationalreadingpanelpubs
Figure 5. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2021, July). A Model Representing the Reading Process [Infographic]. From Wisconsin’s Informational Guidebook on Dyslexia and Related Conditions. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/reading/Dyslexia_Guidebook.pdf p. 16
Figure 6. Adapted from Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, Reading, and Reading Disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7(1), 6–10. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193258600700104, National Reading Panel. (2000, April 13). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read (Reports of the Subgroups). National Institutes of Health. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/der/branches/cdbb/nationalreadingpanelpubs, and Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (2020, May). Wisconsin Standards for English Language Arts. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/standards/New%20pdfs/ELAStandards2020.pdf