A proven model of
success

Reading Recovery is an early intervention for literacy learning that has helped children all over the world lift their literacy performance.

Reading Recovery is backed by an extensive body of research, over many years, in many countries:

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Research Bibliography
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Monitoring and Reporting
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Investigative Research

Sustained success and proven effectiveness

Developed in New Zealand, Reading Recovery is one of the most extensively researched early literacy interventions in the world. The evidence from both New Zealand and overseas has shown it is an effective intervention with a high success rate. In short, it works.

In New Zealand, successive evaluations have found evidence of success. A 2019 evaluation of Reading Recovery produced for the Ministry of Education identified it as being effective in improving literacy levels for children engaged in the intervention. There was also evidence that these benefits are sustained for children with the lowest literacy levels. The evaluation also showed that Reading Recovery teachers were highly valued, as was the national teacher training model.  The evaluation recommended offering Reading Recovery more widely, to more students and supporting other teachers.

The 2005 Evaluation by NZCER highlighted Reading Recovery's success in diverse settings.

There are detailed case studies of schools where Reading Recovery has operated very effectively with diverse populations. Key features for success have been identified as: 

  • High levels of implementation relative to need

  • Reading Recovery an integral part of the school-wide literacy strategy

  • Strong professional learning communities with Reading Recovery teachers playing an important role.


International success

A best evidence synthesis by Professor Slavin at John Hopkins University placed Reading Recovery at the top of a list of 24 proven interventions for struggling readers. It achieved this strong standing using criteria developed for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

A meta-analysis by D’Agostino & Harmey (2016) found that Reading Recovery had an average effect size of .59 across the 16 experimental and quasi-experimental studies that met the stringent criteria for inclusion.

Research bibliography

Hurry, J., Fridkin, L., & Holliman, A. J.(2021). Reading intervention at age 6: Long-term effects of Reading Recovery inthe UK on qualifications and support at age 16. British Educational Research Journal.

Borman GD, Borman TH, Park SJ, Houghton S. (2020) A Multisite Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effectiveness of Descubriendo la Lectura. American Educational Research Journal. 57(5). doi:10.3102/0002831219890612

Bodman, S. (2019). 10 Years On: The Impact of ReadingRecovery [online] Available from: https://www.teachwire.net/news/10-years-on-the-impact-of-reading-recovery  

Hurry, J. and Fridkin, L. (2018) The impact of ReadingRecovery ten years after intervention: A report for the KPMG Foundation. UCL Institute of Education.

Schwartz, R. M. (2018). Reading Recovery: How Do We Rank? Journal of Reading Recovery, 17(2), 61-65.

May, H., Sirinides, P., Gray, A. & Goldsworthy, H.(2016). Reading Recovery: An Evaluation of the Four-Year i3 Scale-Up. CPRE Research Reports.

D'Agostino, J.V., & Harmey, S.J. (2016),  An International Meta-Analysis of Reading Recovery, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), Vol 21, NO.1, 29-46

Schwartz, R. M. (2016). Effective early intervention: Lessons from the i3 evaluation of Reading Recovery. Journal of Reading Recovery, 16 (1), 47-53.

Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE). (2013, 2014, 2016). Evaluation of the i3 Scale-up of Reading Recovery reports.

May, H., Gray A., Sirinides P., Goldsworthy H., Armijo M., Sam C., Gillespie J.N.,Tognatta N. (2015), 'Year One Results Fromthe Multisite Randomized Evaluation of the i3 Scale-Up of Reading Recovery', American Educational Research Journal,52, (3).

The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) (2013). Evaluation of the i3 scale-up of Reading Recovery: Year one report. View report here.

Institute of Education Sciences (2013). Beginning reading intervention report: Reading Recovery. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/InterventionReports/wwc_readrecovery_071613.pdf

Schwartz, R.M. Schmitt, M.C. and Lose, M.K. (2012), 'Effects of teacher-student ratio in response to intervention approaches' The Elementary School Journal, 112(4), 547-567 

Slavin, R.E., Lake, C., Davis, S. & Madden, N.A. (2011) Effective programs for struggling readers: A best-evidence synthesis.Educational Research Review, 6, pp.1-26.

Department for Education (2011), 'Evaluation of EveryChild a Reader (ECaR)', DFE-RR114

Holliman, A. J., Hurry, J., & Douetil, J. (2010). 'Standardisation of the Observation Survey in England and Wales, UK'. London: Institute of Education, University of London.

Watson, B., & Askew, B. (Eds.). (2009). Boundless horizons: Marie Clay's search for the possible in children's literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Every Child a Chance Trust (2009). The long term costs of literacy difficulties. View report here.

What Works Clearinghouse (2008) 'Intervention report: Reading Recovery' U.S.Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Burroughs-Lange,S. and Douetil, J. (2007) 'Literacy progress of young children from poor urban settings: A Reading Recovery comparison study'. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 12 (1), pp 19-46.

Burroughs-Lange,S. and Douetil, J. (2006) 'Evaluation of Reading Recovery in London schools: Every Child aReader 2005-2006'.University of London: Institute ofEducation.

North American Trainers Group Research Committee (2006) 'Six Reading Recovery studies: Meeting the criteria for scientifically based research'. Reading Recovery Council of NorthAmerica: Columbus, OH, USA.

Schwartz, R. M. (2005) 'Literacy learning of at-risk first-grade students in the Reading Recovery early intervention'. Journal ofEducational Psychology, 97 (2), 257-267.

Schwartz, R. M. (2005). Literacy Learning of At-Risk First-Grade Students in the ReadingRecovery Early Intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology,97(2), 257-267.

McDowall, S., Boyd, S., & Hodgen, E. with van Vliet, T. (2005). Reading Recovery in New Zealand: Uptake, implementation, and outcomes, especially in relation to Māori and Pasifika students. View report here.

D'Agostino, J.V., and Murphy, J.A. (2004) A meta-analysis of Reading Recovery in United States schools. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26 (1), 23-38.. View report here.

Quay,L. C., Steele, D. C., Johnson, C. I. and Hortman, W. (2001) 'Children's achievement and personal and social development in a first-year Reading Recovery program with teachers in training'. LiteracyTeaching and Learning, 5 (2), 7-25.

Schmitt, M. C., (2001) 'The development of children's strategic processing in Reading Recovery'. Reading Psychology, 22 (2), 129-151.

Ashdown, J. and Simic, O. (2000) 'Is early literacy intervention effective for English language learners? Evidence from Reading Recovery'. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 5 (1), 27-42.

Neal, J.C. and Kelly, P.R. (1999) 'The success of Reading Recovery for English language learnersand descubriendo la lectura for bilingual students in California'. LiteracyTeaching and Learning, 4 (2), 81-108.

Phillips,G. and Smith, P. (1997) 'Closing the gaps: Literacy for the hardest to teach'. New Zealand Council for Educational Research: Wellington, 3, 1-36.

Center,Y., Wheldall, K., Freeman, L., Outhred, L. & McNaught, M. (1995). An Experimental Evaluation of Reading Recovery. Reading Research Quarterly, 30, 240-263.

Pinnell, G. S., Lyons, C. A., DeFord, D. E., Bryk, A. S. and Seltzer, M (1994) 'Comparing instructional models for the literacy education of high-risk first graders'. Reading Research Quarterly, 29 (1), 8-39.

Iversen, S. J. & Tunmer, W.E. (1993). Phonological Processing Skills and the Reading Recovery Program. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(4), 437-447.

Pinnell, G. S. (1989). Reading Recovery: Helping At-Risk Children Learn to Read. TheElementary School Journal, 90, 161-183. Watson, B., & Askew, B. (Eds.). (2009). Boundless horizons: Marie Clay's search for the possible in children's literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. View report here.

Burroughs-Lange, S., & Douetil, J. (2005-2006). Every child a reader: An evaluation of Reading Recovery in London schools. View report here.

Schwartz, R. M. (2005). Literacy learning of at-risk first-grade students in the Reading Recovery early intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 257-267. View report here.

Monitoring and reporting outcomes in different countries

New Zealand

The New Zealand Ministry of Education collects data online from school on the progress and outcomes for every child. An annual report is published by Education Counts, a research division of the Ministry of Education.

The Annual Monitoring of Reading Recovery can be viewed here.

United States

The International Data Evaluation Centre (IDEC), Ohio State University, collects outcome data from all Reading Recovery and Descubriendo La Lectura (Spanish language) sites annually. They publish comprehensive technical reports on the IDEC website.

United Kingdom

Department for Education (2011). Evaluation of Every Child a Reader (ECaR) showed that Reading Recovery has a positive impact on pupils. View report here.

Investigative Research

Schmitt, M. C., et. al. (2005). Changing futures: The influence of Reading Recovery in the United States. Worthington, OH: Reading Recovery Council of North America. View report here.

Clay, M.M. (2015). Change over time in children's literacy development. Auckland: Marie Clay Literacy Trust. View report here.

The Reading Recovery Council of North America, RRCNA publishes an extensive range of reference and research material including the Journal of Reading Recovery. See the Reading Recovery Community website.

Improvement Science in Education

Teachers refine classroom programmes for specific learners. The question is not about 'what works'; the question is what will work for this particular learner, under these circumstances.

Effective teachers evaluate the impact of teaching for learners, and adjust to incorporate their strengths as resources that help them learn more. Knowing what works is only the first step to understanding why it works.

Co-design

Researchers and teachers work together to design, review and evaluate what is working, for whom, and what needs improvement. Results are interrogated in ongoing cycles of re-design. Research is used understand observed effects.

Learning through partnership

National Reading Recovery seeks ongoing advice from our Sector Advisory Group, the Steering Committee of Universities and our international Reading Recovery networks.

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