The chapters in this section examine how children learn to read in a writing system that exploits the alphabetic principle. Because reading is acquired after spoken language, it is obvious that the beginner brings to the task a working knowledge of language and a large vocabulary. The one thing the wouldbe reader lacks at this stage is the alphabetic principle. And until the beginner has learned this, he or she will not master the ability to recognize words in print. On this account there are just two factors that govern success in reading: comprehension and decoding. A normal child starts school knowing how to comprehend the language; that is, the prereading child already has internalized the basic vocabulary and much if not all of the grammar. What the neophyte doesn't know is how to decode the orthography. Gough and his colleagues call this the "simple theory" of reading. In the lead chapter for this section, Gough and Walsh demonstrate the power of this perspective to make sense of a range of phenomena that reading researchers have regularly sought to explain.
For all its appeal, the simple theory often meets with the objection that there is more than one way to read English words, and that, accordingly, there is more than one route to achieving proficiency. Thus, it has been supposed that some readers make little use of phonology in reading words, however much they may need to exploit the phonology in integrating the earlier and later arriving words of a sentence. Indeed, the effort