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  • Writer's pictureM. Kovack

Scarborough's Reading Rope - The Many Strands of Skilled Reading

The Reading Rope. Scarborough (2001). Source: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

From what we have learned so far, skilled reading depends upon two things:

1) Our Ability to Understand and Use Language Effectively:

-having knowledge about the world and concepts in it

-having many words to use to express this knowledge

-being able to express ourselves using words in ways that make sense

-being able to think critically and creatively beyond just the exact words spoken

-understanding how print works

2) Our Ability to Recognize Words in Print:

-being able to discern and process sounds in spoken words

-being able to make sound-letter connections and sound out words effectively

-being able to (eventually) read all words by sight instantly and effortlessly

Some children have challenges with understanding language.

Some children have challenges with recognizing words.

Some children have challenges with both strands.


The way we are currently teaching children how to read is neither efficient, nor effective for most of our students. We are misusing the "three-cueing system" by using it as a way to identify words in print rather than as it was originally intended.

The Aim Institute for Learning and Research explains each of these strands in detail. Click on the pictures below. I highly recommend visiting this website as it is extremely informative - especially the Pathways to Practice videos, and Access to the Experts videos!


Scarborough, H. S. (2001). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice. In S. Neuman & D. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook for research in early literacy (pp. 97–110). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Academy in Manayunk (2020). Pathways to Practice: An Introduction. Aim Institute for Learning and Research. Retrieved from

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