How the Reading for Understanding Initiative’s Research Complicates the Simple View of Reading Invoked in the Science of Reading

Gina N. Cervetti, P. David Pearson, Annemarie S. Palincsar, Peter Afflerbach, Panayiota Kendeou, Gina Biancarosa, Jennifer Higgs, Miranda S. Fitzgerald, Amy I. Berman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Advocates of the science of reading have invoked the simple view of reading (SVR) to justify an approach that foregrounds decoding in early reading instruction. The SVR, which describes comprehension as the product of decoding and listening comprehension, also served as the primary theoretical model underlying the Reading for Understanding (RfU) initiative. Research funded under the RfU initiative included direct examinations of the validity of the SVR and the nature of its underlying components and extended the SVR in studies of middle school and high school readers. In this article, the authors use research conducted under the RfU initiative to examine the validity and utility of the SVR, in general, and the appropriateness of its application in the “science of reading” debate. RfU research has provided not only evidence in support of the overall SVR model but also important cautions relevant to the “science of reading” debate. In particular, RfU has provided evidence regarding the significance of the listening comprehension component of the SVR, often overlooked by advocates of the science of reading. This research has documented the importance of early oral language skills, which support both decoding and listening comprehension in young readers and plays a critical role in students’ success as readers as they move through school. In addition, RfU research has identified a complicated constellation of skills and knowledge that impact reading comprehension as students advance in school.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S161-S172
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Reaping the Rewards of the Reading for Understanding Initiative project and research reported here were supported by a grant (R305U160002) from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute of Education Sciences or the U.S. Department of Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 International Literacy Association


  • 1-Early childhood
  • 2-Childhood
  • 3-Early adolescence
  • 4-Adolescence
  • Academic Literacy/Literacies
  • Cognitive
  • Comprehension
  • Comprehension (General)
  • Comprehension Instruction
  • Content Area Literacy
  • Decoding
  • Oral language
  • Research Synthesis


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