Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Core Collaborative’s Reading Science Recap. Each month we will RECAP the latest science of reading research to ensure your reading instruction is anchored in the latest evidence and — powered by love.

This week we will be focusing our RECAP on the science of reading comprehension.

Expanding the Simple View of Reading

Our first edition will focus on an emerging model of reading comprehension, the Active View of Reading (AVR). Currently, the Simple View of Reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) or SVR, is a theory about the reading process that is widely held as a foundational principle in many instructional schools of thought. Currently, the SVR model is foundational for many curricular resources, especially those that emphasize decoding and the use of decodable texts. However, the AVR is an expansion of the simple view and can be used as a vehicle to convey the latest advances in reading science.

What is the Simple View of Reading Model?

The AVR model builds on the Simple View of Reading (SVR) model that is being used currently in many states to make policy decisions across the country. The Simple View of Reading (SVR) argues that reading is a formula consisting of two distinct processes: word recognition (decoding) and language comprehension. In other words, the reader must be able to decode the words, and also must be able to understand and make meaning of the words.

The SVR approach posits that instruction focused on word recognition comes before language comprehension; this sequential approach to reading has been nicknamed “Phonics First”. Along with suggesting that decoding and comprehension are separate, the SVR suggests that these two processes do not necessarily influence each other.

Adopting the Active View of Reading Model

Duke and Cartwright (2021) posit that not all reading problems fall neatly under decoding or language comprehension.

This active view of the reading (AVR) builds upon the SVR model. The AVR model includes a bridge between decoding and language comprehension. In addition, it infuses the self-regulatory skills a reader uses to monitor their reading. Self-regulation of reading means the reader uses neurocognitive skills to attend, plan, organize, strategize, and remember how to read a text.

Limitations to the Simple View of Reading

Duke and Cartwright (2021) point to research that shows the limitations of SVR. They explain that some areas such as vocabulary, morphology (meaningful word parts), fluency, and self-regulation influence both sides of the SVR equation and cannot be adequately explained by the SVR. The following points illuminate their positions:

  • Vocabulary knowledge is one sub-category of reading development that helps illustrate the overlap between the two skills. When a reader knows the meaning of a word, the reader can monitor if that word makes sense in its context after decoding the word.
  • Morphology (meaningful word parts) or attention to the smallest meaningful parts
    of words (e.g., roots, affixes, words in compound words), also bridges decoding and comprehension.
  • Fluency is another reading skill that illustrates the overlap between decoding and comprehension. In the SVR, fluency is considered to be related to decoding, the idea being that when a reader has good word recognition, the reader can read smoothly and quickly. However, an important element of fluency is prosody–reading with the expression and phrasing that allows for making meaning, and also shows that the reader understands the text.
  • Self-regulation is also not accounted for in the SVR. Duke and Cartwright (2021) explain how readers take an active role in their own reading; this active role has a significant effect on comprehension. Skilled readers do things like check themselves for understanding, choose strategies to draw upon, and maintain focus and motivation.

In addition to the previous points, skilled readers also draw on more complex cognitive processes not accounted for in the SVR, such as working memory, or the ability to maintain an understanding of the whole of a text while decoding at the same time. Working memory capacity has been closely identified with the ability to control attention (Engle, 2002; Engle & Kane, 2004). Controlling attention is an ability that is critical for self-control and self-regulation.

Bottom line, students benefit from instruction in both word recognition and language comprehension simultaneously (Duke, Ward, & Pearson, 2021).

Nine Implications for Practice and Policy

Now that we know that students benefit from a simultaneous approach, let’s explore nine key understandings (in no particular order) that may help to shift from a simple view to an active view of reading to improve comprehension (Duke, Ward, and Pearson, 2021).

  1. teaching foundational word-reading and bridging skills (including graphophonological semantic cognitive flexibility, morphological awareness, and reading fluency) supports reading comprehension development,
  2. reading comprehension is not automatic even when fluency is strong,
  3. comprehension instruction should begin early,
  4. teaching text structures and features fosters reading comprehension development,
  5. comprehension processes vary by what and why we are reading,
  6. comprehension strategy cary by what and why we are reading,
  7. vocabulary and knowledge building support reading comprehension development,
  8. supporting engagement with text (volume reading, discussion and analysis of text, and writing) fosters comprehension development, and
  9. instructional practices that kindle reading motivation improve comprehension.

if you would like to read the full article regarding these nine key ideas, please see this link to read more.

Moving Theory to Action

Determine Data Driven Priority Standards

Regardless of the reading view an organization takes, the first thing that should be addressed when using any “big box” curriculum product is that all unit priority standards should be aligned to the findings of the previous three years of data: perception data from students-educators-parents, teacher-student observations, state data, universal screener data, diagnostic data, and school-based formative-summative measures. The program will always need to be personalized to each school’s and each classroom’s particular needs.

Audit Core and Supplemental Curricular Resources

As schools and practitioners shift their focus to the Active View of Reading (AVR), they should assess their core and supplemental reading resources for ways they address the complex reading processes not accounted for in the SVR. While the SVR does not necessarily imply that decoding and comprehension should be taught in isolation, some curricular resources that adhere to the SVR suggest doing so, because of the SVR’s implication that these are separate processes. Keep these two points in mind as

  • Any curricular resource that suggests teaching decoding in isolation of comprehension should be scrutinized and likely supplemented with curricular resources that do emphasize comprehension, and that specifically support the application of phonics learning to comprehending texts.
  • When determining interventions, practitioners should determine potential causes of reading difficulty that may fall outside the scope of the SVR, such as a limited knowledge base, a weakness in a skill such as vocabulary or fluency (prosody) that impacts both decoding and comprehension, or a lack of self-regulation, including strategy use and motivation.

Guiding Questions for Curricular Audit

Our team created these guiding questions for district and school curricular teams that should include teachers that are actually executing the curriculum daily to ensure that policy and instructional decisions are anchored in science.

  • Are our students getting the word recognition and comprehension instruction that meets their needs? How do we know?
  • Is comprehension instruction happening early? What is the evidence and how much time is devoted to comprehension?
  • What students are still struggling with comprehension who are also already fluent? What are their next steps?
  • Are we including enough explicit instruction focused on text features and structures to make meaning of text? Are students using text structure to make meaning? How do we know? Are we teaching the text features and structures of both narrative and informative text?
  • Are students varying comprehension processes by what and why we are reading?
  • Do students have a strategy toolkit that they rely on? Can students speak to strategies they use explicitly to make meaning? Are we teaching comprehension strategies explicitly?
  • Have we devoted enough time to vocabulary and knowledge building to support reading comprehension development? What is the evidence?
  • What practices are we employing to support engagement with text (volume reading, discussion and analysis of text, and writing) to foster comprehension development?
  • What instructional practices are already working that kindle reading motivation to improve comprehension?

As educators expand their understanding of the simple view of reading, the active view of reading model can be used to convey the important new advancement of simultaneous reading comprehension will be an asset when supporting students reading development and curricular decisions.


Duke, N.K., Ward, A.E., & Pearson, P.D. (2021). The Science of Reading Comprehension Instruction. The Reading Teacher, 74(6), 663– 672. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1993

Duke, N. K., & Cartwright, K. B. (2021). The science of reading progresses: Communicating advances beyond the Simple View of Reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S25-S44. https://ila.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/rrq.411

Engle, R. W., & Kane, M. J. (2004). Executive Attention, Working Memory Capacity, and a Two-Factor Theory of Cognitive Control. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory, Vol. 44, pp. 145–199). Elsevier Science.

Engle R. W. (2002). Working memory capacity as executive attention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 19–23.
Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, reading, and reading disability. RASE: Remedial & Special Education, 7(1), 6–10. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193258600700104