13 April 2024

The simple view of reading and literacy acquisition

Reading can be represented as two interdependent processes – word recognition (decoding) and language comprehension.

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The simple view of reading

The simple view of reading

Learning to read consists of developing skills in two critical areas:

  1. Word recognition – recognising words quickly and accurately 
  2. Comprehension – understanding the language being read.

Word recognition

Word recognition

Teach these skills explicitly to all learners, particularly learners with dyslexia.

To build word recognition skills, provide: 

  • explicit instruction in alphabetic coding skills 
  • opportunities to practise and receive feedback on using alphabetic coding skills while reading. 

To build alphabetic coding skills, focus on teaching: 

Source: Dyslexia and equity: A more inclusive approach to reading difficulties (Chapman & Tunmer, 2020) (opens in a new tab/window)

The goal of reading

The goal of reading

Reading comprehension is not the end-goal of reading; learning, understanding, wondering, and enjoyment are some of reading’s true goals.

Useful resources

Useful resources


The simple view of reading

Read time: 20 min

This article explains Gough and Tunmer’s simple view of reading. It contains a video, definitions, and important findings from research.

Publisher: WETA Public Broadcasting

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Put reading first: The research building blocks of reading instruction

This guide contains five sections identified in the National Reading Panel Report: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. Each section defines the skill, reviews the evidence from research, suggests implications for classroom instruction, describes proven strategies for teaching reading skills, and addresses frequently raised questions.

Publisher: National Institute for Literacy (NIFL)

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Ending the reading wars: Reading acquisition from novice to expert

Read time: 160 min

This research paper provides a comprehensive review of the science of learning to read. It covers earliest alphabetic skills to word recognition and skilled text comprehension. It includes an explanation of why phonics instruction is central to learning and a review of research, with information on how phonics informs effective classroom practice.

Publisher: SAGE Publications

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Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “Understanding dyslexia and literacy acquisition”:

Return to the guide “Dyslexia and learning”

Guide to Index of the guide: Dyslexia and learning


Strategies for action: