The Simple View of Reading
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The Simple View of Reading

“I get lots of workshops all over the
country, and give them on all different aspects of struggling reading. And I
start every single workshop with the same introduction, and it’s called the
Simple View of Reading. It’s research that is the most important research in
my opinion that’s ever been done on reading, because it clarifies very
clearly what good readers do well and what those who don’t read so well
struggle with. A simple view of reading is research that was first done in 1990.
It was proposed in 1986, and it’s been replicated hundreds of times. Since then
people have tried to disprove it, and they’ve tried to prove it. They can only
prove it. They cannot disprove the simple view of reading. And what it says simply
is that reading is made of two components decoding and language
comprehension. In order to be strong at reading comprehension you got to be
strong at decoding, and you got to have background knowledge, and understand the
words that you’re reading. If you are the most brilliant person in the world, and
you understand physics, and you can draw pictures, and you can’t have code the
words, you can’t achieve reading comprehension. You only have
language comprehension. Decoding is also a critical skill. You
must be able to read the words accurately. I work in Africa sometimes
helping develop programs for languages that children in rural Africa speak
their languages I don’t speak. Full-day Kanuri will of Bhullar they
have what’s called a transparent orthography. That means one letter always
spells the same sound. Not like English where one letter can spell a number of
sounds. I can decode those languages perfectly. You tell me that a ‘c’ spells ‘cha’
and I can, I can read any word, because the vowel the vowel ‘a’ always spells ‘ah.’
‘O’ always spells ‘oh’ so I can read ‘Cho.’ I don’t have a clue what those words say. I
don’t know one word in Woolof but I can read a whole page I can decode a whole
page. I’ve got decoding, but I don’t have any language I can’t get to reading
comprehension. So the simple view of reading tells us two things. We have to
be strong and decoding and we have to have strong language knowledge. We have
to know knows know something in that helps us know what the words are.
Researchers all know about the research the symbol you’re reading teachers don’t
know about it and it’s the most important thing that teachers if they
would understand that students must be strong decoders that means you don’t
guess your way through material you can decode unfamiliar words. It means that
you know what you’re reading about. They would understand then that if you have a
Tier two student meaning that student has a little bit of reading problem. Not
a severe reading problem. They would not say, “All Tier 2 to students go into
the same program. Oh, you’re a Tier 2 student, and you’re in 3rd grade. We’re
gonna put you in read naturally.” Naturally is right for some students, but
we don’t know, because all we have is that they’re a tear to student meaning
they’re behind in reading comprehension. We kind of dig further and find out is
that a decoding problem, or is that a language problem, and we teach those two
things separately, and we test those two things separately. And that is that’s
something that teachers they don’t carry that with them. And if if they if
teachers could carry that with them they would number one know they’ve got to teach
decoding until it’s very strong. They cannot let kids guess their way
through text. The second thing they would know is that a student isn’t performing
as well as we want them to we don’t say what’s wrong with their reading comprehension we say, “I wonder if the problem is decoding
or language comprehension?” And that is the most important
knowledge that we have from research that is absolutely applicable
to teaching. The teachers don’t know about. If teachers understood the simple
view of reading they would know that there when a child has a reading
difficulty they’re not performing as well as we want them to on a reading
test, we have to dig deeper. And the first thing we ask is is the problem that the
student has difficulty decoding? Is the problem that the student doesn’t
understand what they’re reading, or do they have both problems? And if they have
both then we have to address them differently and with separate kinds of
interventions. Decoding is finite, and we’ve we teach decoding you can read
words that you don’t even know what they what they mean, you’re a strong
decoder. If you can decode them like I’m a I’m a really good
decoder in “Wooloff” and before ——– I don’t know anything about the
language, but I’m very strong decoder. In those even in those languages if the
problem is language, obviously for me, problem is I have no vocabulary, so that
would be easy teacher with the words mean. If I get a student who speaks
English, and I know that they have a language problem, how do I know they have
a language problem, because the reading scores are low and they’re strong
decoders. It’s simple algebra. It has to be language. The problem has to be
language. Well then just like the simple view of reading says, “Well the problems
reading is a decoding language. If a student has a weakness in
language, I ask two questions. “Is it a vocabulary background knowledge?
Difficulty weakness which is relatively easy to fix? Or is it reasoning in syntax
that the student just doesn’t get it? Even though they know what the words
mean, but they just miss the idea. One is pretty easy to fix. The other
is more difficult to fix. There are a number of tools that
we can use unlike decoding language is not finite. Everyday we’re
all learning something new. Just by experience we’re
adding to our language comprehension. It’s very complex, and it’s very simple.
The reason I say that is it’s complex to figure out exactly where the
issue is, but it’s very simple once you find the issue you know exactly what to
do. Let me give you an example. I was working in a ninth grade special
education language arts class and there were eleven students nine of them had
decoding issues. Very apparent, so fix their decoding put them in decoding
intervention. Two of them had comprehension issues. One of the ways
that I when I when I don’t have extensive information I try to figure
out I just ask students can you read a paragraph if there are strong decoders
which these kids were he’s – were strong decoders and tell me what you just read.
One of the they read a paragraph about alligators and how long they had been in
southwestern America south eastern southern and southeastern America United
States and all about that. So the first girl read it and she read it, and I asked
her “Please tell me what you read,” and she said, “Uhm. It was
a Million Years.” So I said, “Can you tell me anything
else you read?” She said, “Uhm Alligators.” So she real clearly is reading and
not getting a whole picture of what she’s reading. Now a boy read.
He read the passage and I said, “Can you please tell me
what you read?” “We’ve alligators in our
an hour Bayou right down the house from us.
There are alligators. Do you know sometimes when
they’re babies the only way, how ever much they weigh, but the way,
oh my gosh they can weigh. He knew so much about alligators,
but him tell me anything he read. But him tell me anything he
told me just what he knew, so he had exactly the opposite problem. But
that I’m not going to work with with them the same. So the way I
start with this is I teach the kids how to describe a picture. So I held up a
picture of a kangaroo and there’s a big kangaroo, and there’s a and there’s a little
tree cute few trees in the background. Some brown at the bottom, and I said to the girl,
“Could you please describe this picture?” She said, “There are tree trees.” She
just goes to some detail. It was like It was like she didn’t even know
how to describe. Okay, so then I called the boy up.
“Can you please describe this picture?” “Oh that’s an Australia.” Now that
picture we it might be in Australia, but he’s gonna bring all, so I have to
address their problems very differently. However I’m going to use a picture at
first to get them to focus on the picture to tell me about the picture one
of them I have to keep him in the picture. The other ones I have to show
her how to describe different things. And that’s just the best example that I can
come up with right now to show you how you how a reading comprehension a language comprehension problem can be children can have a low score, and yet
the reason for exactly the same low score is very different.”

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