Simple View of Reading

The Simple View of Reading proposes that reading is the product of decoding and listening or linguistic comprehension. Decoding, in this model, refers to the ability to obtain a representation from print to remember the meaning of a word. Language comprehension refers to the ability to take the meaning of words to obtain meaning at the sentence and word level of input that has been presented orally. Reading comprehension requires the combination of both processes to derive meaning from text (Hoover & Gough, 1990).  The “language comprehension” component of the Simple View of Reading states a formula to describe the process required for reading comprehension:  “Decoding X Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension.” The Simple View of Reading is based on this definition of decoding:

Decoding: For the simple view, skilled decoding is simply efficient word recognition: the ability to rapidly derive a representation from printed input that allows access to the appropriate entry in the mental lexicon, and thus, the retrieval of semantic information at the word level. (p. 130)

Nonetheless, the result is important in demonstrating the separate contributions of decoding and linguistic comprehension to reading ability, as the trend is consistent with the view that for skilled reading, skill in both components is required, while a weakness in either component is sufficient for less skilled reading. (p. 147)

Under the simple view of reading, linguistic comprehension and reading comprehension in this individual are equivalent; with respect to current linguistic skill, such a person is fully literate (for reading) since whatever can be comprehended by ear can likewise be comprehended by eye, and vice versa. Simply increasing the decoding skill of such an individual Will not increase Reading comprehension as the meaning of any words that can now be decoded given the newly expanded skill will still be absent from the internal lexicon. (p. 155)

Nation (2019) is an Australian researcher who has elaborated on the Simple View of Reading to further explain the complexities of comprehension: 

First, there is no “magic profile” that captures all children and totally “explains” their poor comprehension. This reflects both the complexity of comprehension and the difficulty of separating one component of comprehension cleanly. This is perhaps not surprising, given the complex nature of reading comprehension, and its dependence on strong content knowledge.

This reflects the fact that once a level of decoding mastery has been achieved, reading comprehension is ultimately constrained by how well an individual understands spoken language or “the ability to take lexical information (i.e., semantic information at the word level) and derive sentence and discourse interpretations.”

Drawing across these studies, a strong case can be made that linguistic comprehension is broadly captured by listening comprehension, that listening comprehension itself subsumes children’s vocabulary, grammar and language processing abilities and that these abilities (along with decoding) predict reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is the product of a complex set of cognitive and linguistic factors operating across a text.”

The Simple View of Reading for Multilingual Learners

As teachers of students who are second language learners of English and are in the process of learning to comprehend oral English, teachers need to be knowledgeable about semantics as vocabulary knowledge. This involves an understanding of the grammatical and syntactic meaning and functions of words within sentences and discourse, the whole linguistic context of written text.


Ehri, L. C. (2014). Orthographic mapping in the acquisition of sight word reading, spelling memory, and vocabulary learning. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18, 5-21.

Hoover, W. A., & Gough, P. H. (1990). The Simple View of Reading. Reading and Writing, 2(2), 127-160.

Nation, K. (2019). Children’s reading difficulties, language, and reflections on the simple view of reading. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 24(1), 47-73.

Perfetti, C. A., & Stafura, J. (2014). Word knowledge in a theory of reading comprehension. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18(1), 22-37.

Ricketts, J., Bishop, D., & Nation, K. (2008). Investigating orthographic and semantic aspects of word learning in poor comprehenders. Journal of Research in Reading, 31(1), 117-135.

Silva-Maceda, G., & Camarillo-Salazar. (2021). Reading comprehension gains in a differentiated reading intervention in Spanish based on the Simple View. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 37(1), 19-41.

Verhoeven, L., Voeten, M., & Vermeer, A. (2019). Beyond the simple view of early first and second language reading: The impact of lexical quality. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 50, 26-36.