The Simple View of Reading

What is it? 

As we discuss the Simple View of Reading (SVR), it is important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of reading is reading comprehension – we read to learn. The SVR is a science-backed theory that explains how people read by breaking down reading into two basic components: the ability to fluently and accurately read words (decoding) and language comprehension (vocabulary, background knowledge and syntax). The SVR formula states that when a student is a strong decoder and has strong language comprehension, they will also have high reading comprehension. 

Decoding (D) x Language Comprehension (LC) = Reading Comprehension (RC)

What does it tell us?  

The SVR formula tells us that good readers are strong in decoding and have a strong language background. The SVR formula also tells us that if a student struggles with any part of the formula (decoding, language comprehension or both) then their reading comprehension will suffer.  

Let’s take a deeper dive: pretend you are learning to read in Spanish, assuming that you do not know Spanish. Spanish is a phonetic language, meaning that each letter always and only spells one sound (unlike English, where we can have one letter, or a combination of letters that spell multiple sounds). Once you learn the sound-letter correspondences for the Spanish alphabet, you would likely be able to decode words in Spanish, however this doesn’t mean you would have strong reading comprehension. If you don’t know what the words mean that you are decoding, you have a breakdown in language comprehension in the SVR formula. You would need direct instruction in Spanish vocabulary and syntax in order to comprehend what you read.

How do we use it? 

If your child is behind in reading, three questions to consider are: is it a decoding problem? Is it a language comprehension problem? Or could it be both? 

The specific reading interventions provided to a child depends on the answers to the above questions. Dyslexic students tend to have strong comprehension skills when text is read aloud to them, and have a weakness in decoding. In this case, a student would benefit from Structured Literacy therapy to train the brain to decode the English language. If a student is a strong decoder, but not strong in reading comprehension, then interventions would focus on the skills needed to comprehend oral language such as speech processing, knowing the meaning of words, and understanding the grammatical structures that words form. It is possible for children to need support in both areas of decoding and language comprehension.

Now that we’ve broken down the Simple View of Reading, how can you use it to support your child’s reading success? Contact us today to talk about your specific concerns or questions!