This paper presents the rationale and research base for a reading competency model designed to guide the development of cognitively based assessment of reading comprehension. The model was developed from a detailed review of the cognitive research on reading and learning and a review of state standards for language arts. A survey of the literature revealed three key areas of reading competency: prerequisite reading skill, model building skill, and applied comprehension skill. Prerequisite reading skill is the ability to read text accurately and fluently. Model building skill is the ability to construct meaning from either decoded text or spoken language.