The Reading Rope

Dr. Hollis Scarborough compares skilled reading to the many strands of a rope. Each strand represents a separate skill that when combined with the others, creates a strong, proficient reader. When any one strand (skill) is not acquired with fluency, it weakens the strength of the rope. Scarborough’s model depicts each skill as a strand woven together to form either language comprehension and word recognition, and then those two woven together to form skilled reading (reading comprehension). Students must receive instruction that supports all of these skills in order to develop into a skilled reader. (Hennessey. Oct. 12, 2020)


Lower Reading Rope – The Word-Recognition Strands:
Phonological awareness, decoding, and sight recognition of familiar words work together as the reader becomes accurate, fluent, and increasingly automatic with repetition and practice.

Upper Reading Rope – Language Comprehension Strands:
Once readers have mastered word recognition, the dominant factor contributing to proficient reading comprehension is language comprehension ability. This is the ability to simultaneously integrate and organize information from various language systems into a single meaningful representation.

All the strands of Scarborough’s Reading Rope are interdependent and develop over time. The lower strands require increasing automaticity; whereas, the upper strands require readers to become increasingly strategic in the use and integration of their ever-growing language abilities.

Video: Scarborough’s Reading Rope
Video: Unravelling the Reading Rope: The Multifaceted Nature of Skilled Reading. Nancy Hennessy, June 2020.