As young kids amaze us all by developing reading fluency (remember this blog?), they typically move toward greater and greater comprehension of what they read. That’s good: reading with comprehension is, after all, the point of learning to read fluently.
But not all kids have enough of what they need to get to reading comprehension. Some kids have strong phonics and word recognition skills, but still fail to comprehend. Others show solid, insightful comprehension when you read TO them, but fall down in comprehending what they read on their own.
What gives? This sounds complicated.
Actually, it’s helpful to focus on how simple it is. An important model for reading comprehension is one asserted by Gough & Tunmer (1986). Their model, the Simple View of Reading, is described by a simple formula: RC = D x LC
This is “simple” because it only has two moving parts, the D and the LC. Just as a simple lever only has two parts, handle and fulcrum, the development of reading comprehension can be modeled as being, at its core, simple.
Decoding (D) is the ability to turn printed words into the right word sounds, more and more automatically. Phonics instruction aims toward increasing decoding proficiency.
Language Comprehension (LC) is the ability to understand spoken words in sentences. When we speak with easier words and less complex structures to very small kids, we are reaching toward their less proficient language comprehension.
In this model, D and LC are multiplied together, not added. That’s important because it means this: when one is weak, you can’t just compensate with a heavier dose of the other…
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