Reading is a language-based skill. As such, it requires the processing of language that is decontextualized from any ongoing event. Decontextualized language is characterized by the fact that the speaker and listener do not directly share the experience being communicated. The speaker must create the context through language, as in narration. It is not surprising, therefore, that poor readers also exhibit poor narrative skills, especially with linguistic cohesion (Norris & Bruning, 1988). The narratives of poor readers tend to be shorter and less well developed than those of better readers.

Reading is the synthesis of a complex network of perceptual and cognitive acts along a continuum from word recognition and decoding skills to comprehension and integration. Beyond the printed page, a skilled reader draws conclusions and inferences from what he or she reads. Of all the factors involved in early reading success, early exposure to reading by parents and a literate atmosphere at home seem to be most important.

Several steps are involved in reading and reading comprehension. Both oral language and the written context play a role in word recognition and in the ability to construct meaning from print (Gillam & Gorman, 2004). Comprehension emerges from the interaction of letter, sound, word meaning, grammatical and contextual processes, and a reader's prior knowledge.

The first step is decoding the print, which consists of breaking a word into its component sounds and then blending them together to form a recognizable word. Words are then interpreted based on grammar, word meanings, and context. There is an interaction between the print of the page and linguistic and conceptual information brought to the task by a child (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001).

While phonological skills are essential for decoding, other areas of language—syntax, morphology, semantics, and pragmatics—are needed for comprehension (Nation & Norbury, 2005). Comprehension require the active reader to be concerned with self-monitoring, semantic organization, summarization, interpretation, mental imagery, connection with prior knowledge, and metacognition of knowledge about knowledge, to name some of the skills involved.