Though the term "literacy" encompasses a large, complex set of processes, the scientific community has come to the conclusion that reading is a fairly straightforward and logical network of skills and building blocks.
The National Reading Panel has synthesized the past several decades of reading research into a cohesive body called "the science of reading". This research has revealed two dominant models of literacy: the "Simple View of Reading" and "Scarborough's Rope" theory.
Simple View of Reading
The Simple View of Reading is a model that describes reading comprehension as the product of two skill sets: decoding and linguistic comprehension. The theory can be expressed simply as:
D x LC = RC
Decoding refers to the more mechanical set of skills such as phonological awareness, while linguistic comprehension encompasses the more conceptual skills of vocabulary, background knowledge, and verbal reasoning.
The model of Scarborough's Rope delineates in detail how the more minute processes of reading within these larger skill sets come together to support overall literacy and comprehension. This model agrees with the Simple View of Reading as it acknowledge two major threads of skills that come together during "skilled reading": word recognition and language comprehension. The model describes how each of these threads is -- like a rope -- comprised of several specific twines of skills. For example, the thread of word recognition contains the specific skills of decoding, phonological awareness, and sight recognition.
*Image credit: International Dyslexia Association