Research and successes

A proven early intervention for literacy learning, Reading Recovery helps 6-year-old readers and writers catch up with their classmates.

Reading Recovery works

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.

A 2005 NZCER evaluation found that Reading Recovery was well-established in New Zealand schools and was considered cost-effective by those schools offering it. The majority of schools who did not have Reading Recovery said they would do so in the future.

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.

Sustainable outcomes for learners

Reading Recovery is designed to catch children up with their classmates, helping 6-year-olds become competent 7-year-old readers and writers. Schools continue to monitor student progress following Reading Recovery to ensure their ongoing success and to provide additional support when it is needed.

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 training.

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.

New Zealand research

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.

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.

Recent and ongoing international evaluations

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

What Works Clearinghouse (Updated 2013). Reading Recovery WWC intervention report. The WWC, a branch of the United States Department of Education (USDE) assesses research on beginning reading curricula and instructional strategies for students from kindergarten through third grade. WWC has reviewed studies for 175 programmes in the beginning reading category, and only 26 meet their rigorous standards. View report here.

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


D'Agostino, J. V., & 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.

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.