The 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols to construct meaning. Proficient readers not only comprehend what they read, but also read fluently and have a strong motivation to read. Thus, the goals of reading instruction are comprehension, fluency, and motivation [1].

Comprehensive reading instruction teaches the child to use a variety of skills to decode, read fluently, and understand the text. No single skill in this complex interaction is sufficient on its own, and the teacher must be careful not to overemphasize one skill at the expense of others. It is important that teachers understand the interdependent nature of the skills being taught, and that competent readers integrate all sources of information as they engage in reading meaningful texts [2].

The Simple View of Reading

Reading comprehension, or the ability to understand the meaning of printed text, is made up of two components: decoding and oral language comprehension.

oral language

This formula is referred to as the Simple View of Reading [3]. It is shown as a multiplication equation to underscore that if either of the components is missing, reading comprehension is not possible. These two factors, decoding or, getting the words off the page, and language comprehension together account for all variation in reading comprehension, in children.

Scarborough’s Reading Rope

The Simple view of reading can be further broken down into the foundational skills that underlie decoding and language comprehension. Dr. Hollis Scarborough created the Reading Rope to help visualize all the skills your students need to build in order to read.

The language comprehension and word recognition skills needed to become a fluent reader are represented by individual threads. When these threads are combined, the fluent execution and coordination of all these skills form a rope – representing a skilled reader.

The 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction

There are five pillars of reading that emerge over and over through the research. These are:

  • letter-sound (or grapheme-phoneme) correspondence,
  • phonemic awareness,
  • vocabulary,
  • fluency; and
  • comprehension

To learn more about the core skills necessary to become a skilled reader, that have emerged from decades of research, listen to the episode of the TalkLD podcast below:

Click here to view the transcript of this podcast. 

In order to support students in becoming proficient readers, educators must provide effective instruction of all components of reading. The following sections of the module will cover grapheme-phoneme correspondence, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.


[1]Ontario Ministry of Education, 2003b

[2] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2003a

[3](Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Hoover & Gough, 1990)