The Simple View of Reading
The Simple View of Reading and the Science of Reading have become jargon terms used by many small and extremely large publishers of tools to teach reading starting with phonics, including smartphone apps, YouTube videos, workbooks and flash cards, and complete K-12 reading packages for school systems.

These terms are also widely used by elementary teachers of reading who defend one side in the so-called "reading wars" between phonics advocates and "whole language" advocates.

Somewhat ironically, neither view is particularly simple or scientific as used in the dialogues and debates about the best way to teach children to read English. The Simple View of Reading (SVR) is considered by some to be a major part of the "scientific research" supporting the Science of Reading (SoR). But SVR is just a statistical study of correlations between quantitative measurements of two quantities that demonstrate their product is proportional to a third quantity called "reading comprehension."

The Simple View of Reading was proposed in 1986 by Philip Gough and his colleague William Tunmer to explain why 1) direct instruction in phonics (decoding) alone is not enough to read and 2) decoding may play no role in skilled (fluent, automatic, silent reading). Reading is not a simple linear combination of Decoding and Comprehension, Gough and Tunmer claimed. Their statistical analysis indicates that reading is a mathematical product of decoding and comprehension, as captured in their original equation for the SVR, D X C = R, "decoding times comprehension equals reading."

Proponents of "whole language" like Ken Goodman and Frank Smith have argued that "decoding ability is at most an epiphenomenon, and that instruction in decoding may distort, if not actually impede, the acquisition of literacy."

Gough and Tunmer hoped to empirically measure the role of decoding and described their method as "scientific," since it's based on a mathematical equation.

In a follow-up article by Gough and Wesley Hoover in 1990, they wrote a "simple view of reading was outlined that consisted of two components, decoding and linguistic comprehension, both held to be necessary for skilled reading." Later they wrote "The linear combination of decoding and listening comprehension made substantial contributions toward explaining variation in reading comprehension, but the estimates were significantly improved by inclusion of the product of the two components, not simply their sum or linear combination."

So the initial version of the simple view is that reading comprehension is the product of "decoding" and linguistic (or better listening?) comprehension.

Decoding is the process of converting print symbols (letters) into a sequence of sounds (phonemes). This is called phonics. If the word is in the child's speaking vocabulary, it will likely be recognized and comprehended by listening to the sounds of the letters.

In recent very popular versions of the Simple View of Reading (for example by the Reading League), "Reading Comprehension" is described as the product of "Word Recognition" with "Linguistic Comprehension."

But these three terms are surely vague and unlikely to communicate Gough, Tunmer, and Hoover's attempts to measure the separate contributions of 1) phonics (and phonemic awareness) converting a sequence of letters into a sequence of sounds (i.e., decoding) and 2) the presence of the word in the oral vocabulary of a young reader so the sounds are recognized (comprehended) as a known word.

"Word Recognition," "Linguistic Comprehension," and "Reading Comprehension" are all vaguely definable in terms of one another.

By contrast, "Decoding/Phonics" (Print to Sound) and "Listening Comprehension" (Sound to Meaning), combine to produce Print to Meaning, which is indeed "Reading Comprehension."

When children are taught to read, if they are first taught that the letters represent sounds, they can sound out the print and hear the words. As long as the words chosen for their first reading material are in their enormous oral vocabulary (hundreds of words for two-year olds, thousands for five-year olds), their reading will include comprehending.

How simple is that? If children are not taught the alphabetic principle, their reading will be limited to memorizing many thousands of whole words, instead of learning the forty-four sounds of letters and about seventy-five letter combinations that stand for those forty-four sounds.

Why have schools of education taught so many teachers to hide this simple view of teaching reading from their students?