The term ‘Simple View of Reading’ used by schools may seem strange as there is nothing simple about learning to read.
The Simple View of Reading was adopted by the Government in 2007 and now underpins the English National Curriculum’s programmes of study for reading at Key Stage 1 and 2.
Even though reading, the ability to decode the word and extract the correct meaning of the words, is a complex set of skills; the Simple View of Reading conceptual framework (Stuart et al. 2008, cited Hoover and Gough, 1986) reduces it down to two key components:
- Word recognition – the ability to decode unknown words and recognise printed words.
- Language comprehension – the ability to understand the spoken words and use this process to understand the written text.
|Reading Comprehension = Decoding x Linguistic Comprehension
So in theory a child’s reading comprehension ability can be predicted by looking at their decoding and linguistic (spoken language) comprehension abilities (Johnston & Watson, 2007).
When using the Simple View of Reading as the basis for teaching reading it becomes clearer as to why:
- A high quality phonics scheme is required, which the Rose Report (2006) explains ‘…is not a ‘strategy’ so much as a body of knowledge, skills and understanding that has to be learned.’ (page 20) [This teaches children how to decode.]
- A language rich environment to develop and encourage linguistic comprehension is vital.
For a pdf copy of this diagram: https://www.teachphonics.co.uk/The%20simple%20view%20of%20Reading%20diagram.pdf
Johnston.R. and Watson.J. ‘Teaching Synthetic Phonics’, 2007, Pub: Learning Matters, Sage Publication Ltd.
Rose.J. ’Independent review of the teaching of early reading: final report March 2006’ Pub: DfES Publications
‘The simple view of reading and evidence based practice’ Rhona Stainthorp Institute of Education, Reading University, Morag Stuart, Institute of Education, University of London (2008) Pdf downloaded from internet
Reading is the ability to first decode the letter sequence of the word (phonics) and then to place meaning to it in relation to the context in which it is being used.
We ask children who are learning to read to ‘read out aloud’, but forget to tell them why. It is not just so we can hear they have decoded a word correctly. The important point is to encourage them to actively listen to what they are saying. The idea is that if they hear the words they will, if it is part of their vocabulary, understand their meaning and therefore fully comprehend the text they have read.
Unfortunately many children just decode, speak and do not actively listen to what they have said, so they do not gain meaning from the words they are reading (poor reading comprehension skills).
Poor reading comprehension skills may also occur because a child has a limited vocabulary usage and /or understanding. A language rich environment is vital to help support and develop a child’s vocabulary and linguistic comprehension which in turn will support their reading comprehension skills.
With the new school year well under way many new parents are being introduced to the world of phonics and the all the technical language associated with it. So we thought we would take this opportunity to demystify some of that technical language.
Phonemic awareness is our ability to split words into their smallest sound units (individual phonemes) and to manipulate these sounds through segmentation, blending, substitution and deletion. This is based on what we hear and say, not the written word.
The phonemic awareness sound manipulation skills; segmentation, blending, substitution and deletion are developed further through phonics, as letter associations are introduced.
- Segmentation – being able to split words into their individual sounds, for example ‘cat’ into c-a-t.
- Blending – being able to blend individual sounds together to say a word, for example d-o-g into dog.
- Substitution – being able to swap one sound/letter association for another in a word, for example swapping the /k,(k)/ sound in the word ‘cat’ with a /h,(h)/ sound to say the word ‘hat’.
- Reordering – being able to swap the sounds/letter association around to create a new word, for example changing the order of the letters in the word ‘cat’ to form the new word ‘act’.
- Deletion – being able to remove a sound/letter association from a word to create a new word, for example removing the /t,(t)/ sound from the word ‘cart’ to say the new word ‘car’.
Good phonemic awareness is the vital skill required before phonics can be introduced successfully as a tool for learning to read and spell.
Phonics is the association of sounds (phonemes) to written alphabet letters (graphemes). For reading (decoding) the phonics coding system is used to convert the written word into sounds. For spelling (encoding) the same phonic coding system is used to covert sounds heard into letters to form written words.
Watch our ‘Single Word Reading’ animation to see these manipulation skills in action: bit.ly/20JAHSa
With the new school year under way some of you will have been introduced to phonics for the first time. Phonics is a very useful decoding tool used for developing reading skills and as an encoding tool for spelling.
Phonics is the simple process of linking sounds to letters, its complexity comes from how many sound (phoneme) to letter (grapheme) combinations there are. So, to be good at phonics a child needs to know the 44 sounds and numerous letter and letter combinations of English and then learn the associations between the two.
Children can communicate orally from an early age; it is when they move to the written word that they need to learn how to decode text, to turn the letters into words they already know.
Using phonics knowledge for reading entails:
- Identify the letter or letter combination, in a word, that represent a sound
- Associate the letter or letter combination to one of the 44 sounds
- Blend each of the sounds together to form the word
- Recognise the now oral word to extract its meaning
The theory supporting the teaching of reading using phonics, especially synthetic phonics, is that if a child can decode a word by associating individual sounds to a letter or combination of letters they will then be able to blend those sounds together to form and say the word.
Once a word has been spoken they will extract its meaning by using their far more extensive spoken language comprehension. Children are therefore using the same mental processes to understand written text and speech.
Good spatial awareness enables us to be aware of the space around us and our position in that space, as well the relationship between ourselves and objects. This also includes our ability to see and understand the spacing of text and pictures on a page, to distinguish between paragraphs, sentences, words and individual letters.
Spatial awareness difficulties can have a dramatic effect on a child’s ability to read fluently and with ease due to the fact that they do not see the print in the same way as people with good spatial awareness skills.
Typical problems due to poor spatial awareness skills:
- They lose their place, skip lines and words or transpose them
- They use a finger to help keep their place.
- Comprehension can be difficult as text is mis-read.
Eye tracking is the ability to control and coordinate the fine eye movements that allows us to:
- Read a line of print by moving our eyes from left to right, without moving the head.
- To focus and move the eyes to follow an object, without moving the head, in all directions
- To track/follow objects near and far
- To focus on one object without moving the eyes.
Eye tracking difficulties can have a dramatic effect on a child’s ability to read fluently and with ease due to the fact that they do not see the print in the same way as people with good eye tracking skills.
Typical problems due to poor eye tracking skills:
- They lose their place, skips words or transposes them
- They use a finger to help keep their place
- Some will turn their head sideways to read or write
- Others may cover one eye to read
- They hold their head close to the table when looking at things, reading, writing and drawing
For more information on how to identify spatial awareness and eye tracking difficulties as well as activities to help support and develop these skills use these links:
Children will often be unaware that what they see and experience may be different to what we or their friends are seeing. As parents it can be a real shock when your child says “isn’t that what you see?”, as unless the difference is extreme and has an obvious impact on them we can think everything is ok.
Visual difficulties not only affect a child’s ability to read but also their handwriting skills.
If you are not sure about your child’s vision then book an eyesight test, it could be your child is struggling because they need glasses, and they are now cool and don’t carry the stigma they used to.
Some children may not have a problem with their eyesight but find reading print difficult because it seems to move around on the page as they try to read.
When reading a book with your child it is worth talking to them about what they see. Try to be matter of fact, so that they do not feel you are looking for a particular answer. Using a book with a good print size and not too crammed with words (so a school reading book is a good idea) you are looking to find out:
- Can they identify each row of text (try asking them to count how many lines on the page or to point to each line of print) or do they jump or miss out lines.
- Can they identify words in the line of text or do they sometimes blur together.
- Can they see each letter in words or do they sometimes swap them around so “was” becomes “saw” for instance (this does happen occasionally when a child is first learning to read but is more of a concern if it becomes a regular reading error for a number of words).
- Does the print do funny things, such as move or wiggle about?
Book an eye test for your child if they are having some, or all, of these difficulties. Also try placing different coloured overlays (coloured plastic wallets are good) over the text to see if your child finds it easier to read or see the print. For many children, struggling with the issues above, coloured overlays or specially tinted glasses can make an amazing difference. We found the impact for our two dyslexic daughters quite dramatic, improving their skills, confidence and self-esteem. It does not work for all children but it is really worth trying.
Some opticians who have an Optometrist or Orthoptist can perform a coloured overlay test (http://www.eyecaretrust.org.uk/view.php?item_id=125) for your child to assess whether coloured lenses would be beneficial. The test can be difficult for children under the age of 8 as they may choose their preferred fashion colour rather than the one best suited for them.
Letter knowledge is understanding;
- That the same letter can look different, for example, a lower case letter ‘b’ looks different from a capital letter ‘B’. Letters will also look different depending on which font type is being used or if it is handwritten, for example, an Arial font letter ‘g’ looks different from a Calibri font ‘g’.
- That letters have names and the same name is used for that letter even when they look different, so the lower case letter ‘a’ and its capital letter form ‘A’ are both called ‘ay’.
- That letters (graphemes) are used to represent sounds (phonemes) in words. Teaching the unique letter names of the alphabet is an important pre-phonics skill. A letter or combination of letters can represent more than one sound and so the only way of identifying alphabet letters when we talk about them is to use their unique names.
Developing Letter Knowledge:
- Sorting and Matching Games – use plastic or wooden letters, alphabet letter flash cards; can they group all the lower case letters together, or all the capital letters or all the different letter ‘ay’s together.
- Kim’s Games – use plastic or wooden letters, alphabet letter flash cards use a few letters at a time, place 5 to 10 on a tray and let your child look at them and talk through which letters are there. Cover with a tea towel and ask your child to look away, then remove 1 or 2 of the letters. Then ask your child to look back and remove the tea towel. Can they spot which letters are missing.
- Detective Games – focus on identifying individual letters of the alphabet and naming them, this can be played at home or when out and about.
- Leap Frog – use the letters of the alphabet on home-made paper lily pads. Use the letter names to identify the target lily pad for your child to either jump onto or to throw a bean bag/soft toy on to.
- Skittles and Throwing Games – use letters of the alphabet on the targets and use the letter names as a way of identifying which of the targets your child is aiming for.
- Making lists of things to do, or a shopping list. Their version of the list may be just squiggles and dots (so don’t rely on this for your shopping trip) but it is the beginning. I would keep the list and get them to tick off things done or items purchased as part of the experience so that it has a genuine purpose (children really like this).
- Making and drawing their own story book.
- Learning to writing letters correctly – see our Teach handwriting Website: http://bit.ly/1dqBYFm
Through Songs/Nursery Rhymes:
- Singing Alphabet Song, try singing it to different tunes.
- Make up Your Own Rap – point to the letters as the rap is said.
- Talk about letters as being shapes made up of straight, curves and diagonal lines.
- Look at the letters in your child’s name, talk about the fact that the first letter in their name is always a capital letter and that normally the other letters are lower case letters.
- Point out especially for slightly older children that lower case letters are about half the size of the capital letters.
- Compare letters looking at what is the same and different about them.
- When taking about letters use the letter name as well as the sound it is making in the word, remember a letter is often used to represent more than one sound. The letter ‘a’ can be used to represent different sounds in the following words: ant, apron, was, and any (just 4 of the eight sounds it is used to represent).
Through Book Sharing:
What Books to choose?
- Books with shapes
- Books where you have to find things (like I spy)
- Alphabet books
- Books which use different font styles in the pictures and text.
Book Sharing Tips:
- Alphabet books do not need to be read from cover to cover. Let your child choose which letters they want to look at.
- Trace the letters with your finger or let your child trace it (make sure you trace the letter using the correct formation orientation, encourage your child to do the same).
- Talk about the pictures in alphabet books before focusing on the letter, its name and the sound it can make.
- Show your child the first letter in their name and then look for that letter in the book.
- Show and talk about how some letters are in their capital form and others in their lower case form. Can they find other examples of the letters?
- Choose two letters to talk about: How do they look alike? How do they look different? What shapes/line styles are they made up of?