To help students develop language comprehension, the underlying meaning-based elements of reading—background knowledge, vocabulary, and language structures—must be taught and monitored. Unlike teaching students to recognize words accurately and automatically so that they become fluent readers, teaching the elements of language comprehension must be done so that students become increasingly strategic about extracting the meaning from texts they read. This is an incremental, ongoing, developmental process that lasts a lifetime. With each new bit of background knowledge, each new vocabulary word, and each new understanding of language use, students can integrate this knowledge strategically to comprehend text.

The two essential components of the Simple View of Reading, automatic word recognition and strategic language comprehension, contribute to the ultimate goal of teaching reading: skilled reading comprehension. Once students become proficient decoders and can automatically identify words, the role of language comprehension becomes increasingly important as students shift from paying attention to the words to paying attention to meaning.

Teachers must be ever mindful of the presence or absence of background knowledge that students bring to the task. As important as it is for students to monitor their comprehension, it is equally important for teachers to continually monitor each student’s background knowledge and comprehension so that they can step in to build and supply what is missing in their understanding. The value of the knowledge that students bring to their reading should never be sacrificed for the sake of comprehension strategy instruction. They must go hand in hand.