Common Questions

FAQs About Reading Recovery

We answer the most common questions about Reading Recovery.

Reading Recovery Common Questions

The myth that Marie Clay was the origin of the three-cueing system model is certainly false as the readings of Clay demonstrate and as Adams confirmed.  And, the myth that Reading Recovery does not teach phonics or phonemic awareness, because the visual system is somehow less important, is also false.  So why then are these stories so closely linked to Reading Recovery?

Learn more about the myths of three-cueing.


Reading Recovery was not designed to take the place of a comprehensive plan for literacy but to provide a safety net within a comprehensive literacy plan. Reading Recovery builds the capacity of the system to serve all children at the level needed for success. Comprehensive literacy plans for schools and systems must include high-quality classroom instruction, effective early safety nets such as Reading Recovery, and continued extra support for a few students.

All three components are necessary to help every student succeed. Reading Recovery professionals have a long history of supporting comprehensive approaches to serve all children. Reading Recovery teachers also work with children in classrooms and groups at least part of every teaching day, thus contributing broadly to the school program.

Many U.S. educators have discovered that Reading Recovery becomes a catalyst for identifying literacy needs and for making changes as needed. For example, classroom teachers often report changes in their own practices such as observing and assessing children, choosing appropriate texts, focusing on strengths, teaching to develop a network of strategic activity, and teaching with higher expectations.

Children may not complete the Reading Recovery lesson series for two reasons: they move before the intervention is completed or they enter Reading Recovery too late in the school year to complete the intervention.

The Reading Recovery design calls for up to 20 weeks of instruction. Children who reach grade-level standards may not require the full 20 weeks. Removing a child from Reading Recovery before 20 weeks for any other reason is rare (e.g., child returns to a kindergarten placement). Such decisions are made at the school level and written documentation is provided. The child’s data are always retained and included in evaluation reports.

Any school or system arbitrarily removing children from Reading Recovery is out of compliance with Standards and Guidelines of Reading Recovery in the United States.

Reading Recovery does not necessarily increase mean (average) scores of the class. Reading Recovery does, however, increase the actual number of children who read within the average range of their first-grade cohort and decrease the number of children who need extra help. A child who successfully completes Reading Recovery lessons must be reading at grade-level standards (documented in national evaluation data that compares Reading Recovery students to a national random sample of students in the U.S.)

Research and evaluation data reveal that Reading Recovery reduces achievement gaps in at least four areas:

Reading Recovery outcomes for English language learners are quite similar to those of native English speakers. Explore the English language learner intervention in Spanish and French.

Reading Recovery may be judged as highly effective if data show that the intervention is significantly reducing the numbers of children with severe reading problems, there is clear evidence of strong support for Reading Recovery, and Reading Recovery is perceived as an integral part of the educational system.

Assessing the effectiveness of Reading Recovery is a complex issue for several reasons. Implementing any high-quality educational change such as Reading Recovery is a slow process that involves changes in people’s beliefs and allegiances, organizational patterns, allocations of resources, roles, and communication patterns.

Therefore, any assessment of Reading Recovery effectiveness:

  • Must recognize the time required for change to occur. Teachers and schools will not easily realize the full potential of the intervention in the early years of implementation.
  • Must be evidence-based, but the evidence may need to be understood in relation to incomplete or partial implementation and in relation to classroom practice.
  • Must seek to understand how the system is supporting the implementation as well as how Reading Recovery teaching is effective.

Learn more about specific ways you can measure the effectiveness of Reading Recovery.

Reading Recovery teacher training is available only through registered Reading Recovery sites. These sites are affiliated with school districts that have made the commitment to implement Reading Recovery according to the Standards and Guidelines of Reading Recovery in the United States or the Standards and Guidelines of Reading Recovery in Canada. If your school or district is part of a registered Reading Recovery site, teachers are selected according to local procedures for open positions. Teachers must meet Reading Recovery standards for selection of teachers.

Learn more about Continuous Professional Development and our 3-tiered system for initial training.

A series of Reading Recovery lessons has two positive outcomes depicted by three status categories:  One status category for students achieving accelerated progress and two alternative categories for those who do not demonstrate the intervention goals of accelerated progress and an effective literacy processing system.

First Positive Outcome

  • Accelerated Progress: Achieved Intervention Goal. The child meets grade-level expectations and can make ongoing progress in literacy without needing extra help beyond the classroom program. (This is the outcome for approximately 75% of the children with a complete Reading Recovery intervention.)

Second Positive Outcome

  • Progressed: Monitoring and Support are Essential for Ongoing Literacy Progress. The child demonstrates substantial progress but does not reach grade-level expectations after 20 weeks of instruction. Continued instructional support is needed to ensure ongoing progress and strengthening of the literacy processing system under construction.
  • Recommended: Additional Evaluation and Ongoing Intervention are Essential for Ongoing Progress.  The child has not made accelerated progress after 20 weeks of instruction.  Additional evaluation and planning by the school team are recommended, and further action is initiated to help the child develop a literacy processing system and make progress.

Individual one-to-one instruction is essential for acceleration. Reading Recovery enables most of the children who are the lowest literacy achievers in their class to accelerate their progress in order to catch up with their peers. Individualized Reading Recovery lessons are the most efficient—and often the only—way to give these lowest-achieving children the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

Rather than use a commercially prescribed instructional program, highly trained Reading Recovery teachers assess, analyze, and design daily lessons that are specifically tailored to follow the child’s unique learning process. In each 30-minute lesson the child:

  • Reads two or more familiar books,
  • Rereads yesterday’s new book(with the teacher taking a running record),
  • Works with letter identification,
  • Breaks words into parts,
  • Composes and writes a story/message,
  • Hears and records sounds in words,
  • Reconstructs the cut-up story,
  • Engages with the new book introduction, and
  • Attempts to read the new book. (see Clay, 2016, p. 35)

Reading Recovery is a compelling option for schools that are designing response to intervention (RTI) or multi-teared systems of support (MTSS) models to meet the needs of struggling readers and writers. Collaborative efforts among general educators, special educators, and Reading Recovery professionals can lead to the development of a promising RTI/MTSS models.

The 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA; IDEA) encourages early intervention to determine if a child responds to the intervening instruction. The goal is to limit referrals by distinguishing between children who are learning disabled and children whose difficulties are related to experience and instruction. This goal closely parallels Reading Recovery’s goal “to dramatically reduce the number of learners who have extreme difficulty with literacy learning and the cost of these learners to educational systems” (Clay, 1994).

Groups like the International Dyslexia Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of America share our interest in supporting the literacy learning of young children, though our methods differ. Because of the strong interest in how we better support students with Dyslexia and other learning processing issues, we have established a list of resources and research, including a study about the positive impact of Reading Recovery on students with Dyslexia characteristics published as recently as 2022.

Learn more about Reading Recovery and Dyslexia, including specific research conducted on the intersection of these issues.

The International Data Evaluation Center (IDEC) at The Ohio State University collects data on every child from every Reading Recovery site in the United States on an annual basis. Each child is assessed before entering Reading Recovery, again upon leaving Reading Recovery, and at the end of the school year. Each child leaves Reading Recovery with a documented intervention status (outcome).

This evaluation system provides direct accountability for each child’s progress and provides a record of strengths and continuing needs for each child. IDEC evaluation also includes process data to guide intervention decisions. (See for information about Reading Recovery evaluation and copies of national reports.)

In addition to IDEC evaluation, Reading Recovery university training centers throughout the U.S. analyze and publish outcomes. Evaluation frequently includes qualitative data about stakeholders’ perspectives on Reading Recovery: parents, classroom teachers, administrators, and Reading Recovery professionals.

No. Reading Recovery is a Tier 2/3 intervention in the MTSS/RTI Framework. Reading Recovery helps low-achieving children make accelerated gains to reach average grade-level performance. To achieve this rapid learning, children have lessons that are individually designed and individually delivered. Individual rather than group learning is essential so that children waste no time with what they already know. Reading Recovery, in combination with strong classroom instruction, gives children the best chance for success.

Reading Recovery is not an independent business venture: It is a not-for-profit intervention that involves collaboration among schools, districts, and universities. In the United States, the name Reading Recovery has been a trademark of The Ohio State University since December 1990, when action was taken to identify sites that meet the Standards and Guidelines of Reading Recovery in the United States. The purpose of the trademark is to protect the quality and integrity of Reading Recovery across multiple implementation sites. Use of the royalty-free trademark is granted annually to sites that meet quality standards.

Reading Recovery is not aligned with any specific classroom approach. For decades, educators and parents have debated the best approach for teaching children to read. Research demonstrates that children have individual learning strengths and that no single approach is best for all children.

One-to-one teaching may sound expensive, but Reading Recovery is economical for several reasons.

  • It is effective in both the short-term and long-term.
  • It is a way to reduce costs associated with retention and long-term placements in special education, Title I, and other compensatory programs.
  • It is a way to identify children who may need additional support through response to intervention.
  • It is a way to build capacity in teacher expertise through professional development.

For more information about cost-effectiveness analysis and Reading Recovery, see:

The Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement was reviewed and rated as a screening tool by the National Center for Response to Intervention (NCRTI) using a composite score for all six tasks. NCRTI assigned the highest possible rating – Convincing Evidence – in all categories: Classification Accuracy, Generalizability, Reliability, Validity, and Disaggregated Data for Diverse Populations. Read the article (PDF) from the Spring 2012 issue of The Journal of Reading Recovery “Technical Review Committee Confirms Highest NCRTI Ratings for Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement.”

Learn more about the Observation Survey

If your district has Reading Recovery, but your school does not, you will want to talk with your principal about the possibility of bringing Reading Recovery to the school. This action requires that the principal and faculty members are knowledgeable about the intervention and support adding it to the comprehensive literacy plan for the school. If appropriate support and adequate resources are provided, the teacher(s) will be selected according to Reading Recovery standards for selection of teachers and local personnel procedures. If your district does not have Reading Recovery, but your school wants to study the possibilities, the first thing to consider is whether there is a nearby Reading Recovery teacher training site that would make contractual arrangements for including your school in that site. With school support, the principal would contact the teacher leader in that site for specific information about possibilities for implementing Reading Recovery in the school.

Reading Recovery is available on a nonprofit, no royalty basis to schools and districts that agree to operate according to established standards and guidelines. The costs include professional development for teacher leaders and teachers, materials and supplies, and evaluation. Common areas to consider when budgeting for Reading Recovery include:

  • Professional development. In the United States, Reading Recovery is a three-tiered collaboration that includes universities, teacher training sites (often operated by school districts or a consortium of districts) and schools. Select universities in the U.S. oversee the professional development and implementation of Reading Recovery. School administrators who want to adopt Reading Recovery and provide professional development for their teachers will either establish their own teacher training site, or affiliate with a site nearby for teacher training.
  • Teacher training. Teacher training sites must have one or more Reading Recovery teacher leaders who have been trained for an academic year at a university training center in the United States or the Canadian Institute of Reading Recovery in Canada. Sites will train a teacher leader or secure access to a trained teacher leader who provides initial training and ongoing professional development for Reading Recovery teachers. Costs for training a teacher leader include tuition for graduate level course work during the training year and a university training fee that varies by university. The site must also equip a room with a one-way mirror and sound system to provide initial training and ongoing professional development for teachers.
    Teacher training costs are established by the training site and include university tuition for graduate course work, books, materials, and affiliation fees. In many cases, fees are also calculated to offset all or part of the salary for the teacher leader who oversees the site. Ongoing professional development costs vary by training site. Sites implementing Reading Recovery pay annual technical support fees for ongoing professional development that vary by the university that serves the site. Contact a nearby teacher training site or university training center for specific costs.
  • Materials and supplies. Reading Recovery requires an extensive collection of short books (usually paperback) because children read a new book each day – one that has been carefully selected by the teacher to support expanded reading skills. Each teacher will need a set of starter books that will grow over the years. The initial purchase of non-consumable children’s books is about $2,500 per year. Books are not purchased through Reading Recovery, but from other publishing houses that provide suitable titles for the use of Reading Recovery Teachers during lessons. Other costs include professional books, materials, and supplies, a magnetic board, easel, magnetic letters, and erasable white board. A teacher leader or university trainer will supply a specific list of materials and costs.
  • Data and evaluation. The International Data Evaluation Center (IDEC), an ongoing research project in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University, is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data. Each Reading Recovery site will pay two separate fees to the IDEC. The first fee is an annual site setup fee and covers the cost of annually updating a site’s rosters of teachers and schools, plus ongoing phone and email support from the IDEC Help Desk for teacher leaders. The second fee is a per teacher data entry fee. This fee covers the cost of data entry on the IDEC website and the production of annual reports and a data dump at the end of the school year.
  • Staffing. School administrators have considerable flexibility in how they staff Reading Recovery, and many schools are able to implement Reading Recovery by realigning existing staff. Reading Recovery teachers need to be able to teach four individual 30-minute lessons each day in addition to their other roles within the school. These teachers may be kindergarten or primary-grade teachers, Title I teachers, intervention specialists, teachers of ELL or special education, or literacy coaches and administrators. On average, the teachers working in Reading Recovery use their expertise to support 8 Reading Recovery students each year and an additional 40 students in other instructional roles. Since Reading Recovery training and instruction is intense, administrators must ensure that teachers have adequate time and compensation for their work with the lowest-achieving first-grade children

Multiple criteria are considered before determining if a child is ready for the individual lessons to stop. Consideration is given to a child’s ability to:

  • read increasingly more difficult texts at an instructional level, learning from his own efforts to solve problems as he reads;
  • compose increasingly complex messages using resources to get to new words, monitoring and editing work, and knowing when and how to get help; and
  • continue to learn in the classroom.

In industry, standards are developed to ensure that a high-quality product is implemented uniformly in order for the product to yield the same high-quality outcomes regardless of where it is produced. All countries involved in Reading Recovery have a set of implementation standards to protect the quality of the intervention in relation to teaching children, training and professional development for teachers, and system implementation.

See the Standards and Guidelines Webpage for specific expectations for implementation in the United States and Canada.

Intervention research must verify that the intervention is implemented as designed. This is a protection for the implementing system. Reading Recovery: An Evaluation of the Four-Year i3 Scale-Up by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (May et al., 2016) assessed fidelity to the model in several areas (staff background and selection, teacher leader and site capacity, Reading Recovery training and professional development, and one-to-one lessons) and found strong fidelity to the model.

Funding decisions are critical to the longevity of Reading Recovery and for the success of children who need its support. The ongoing priority for Reading Recovery administrators is to support Reading Recovery with a stable and long-term funding stream. In some districts that may be local funding, in other districts it will be federal, and still others will use a mix of federal, state, and local funding.

Temporary funding sources are best used for one-time or short-term needs. Among those could be special grants for professional development, capitol investments to build or remodel a training facility, or an investment in materials such as children’s books. While these targeted grants are important and useful, a long-term funding plan is the best way to ensure that Reading Recovery will be available to children who will continue to need its highly trained teachers in the years to come.

A team approach in developing this long-term plan provides broad-based support for Reading Recovery. Involving stakeholders across the site is more likely to allow sustained funding during tough economic times or when conflicting priorities emerge.

  • Creative funding. Many schools think creatively when searching for resources to implement Reading Recovery. Remember that flexible staffing ultimately represents dollars. See examples in “Implementing RTI and Staffing Reading Recovery in Difficult Economic Times”(PDF) from The Journal of Reading Recovery.
  • State and local funding sources. Several states have appropriated early literacy funding in their state budgets, and a few states have created professional development funds to help pay for Reading Recovery professional development. Check with your state department of education to see what funds may be available. In addition, several school districts have applied for grants from foundations or corporate-giving programs.
  • Federal funding sources. Federal legislation is divided into major components called Titles. In each Title there are several Parts. Federal education programs are often referred to by the Title and Part that describes them. Formula grants are allocated to states or their subdivisions in accordance with distribution formulas prescribed by law or administrative regulation, for activities of a continuing nature not confined to a specific project. Formula entitlement grants are awarded to school districts and are not competitive in nature. This often makes them ideal for funding long-term projects in that they are not “up for competition” every few years. However, formula grants are not always assured. Legislative priorities can change and an entitlement can be discontinued.Several types of federal funds and considerations for sites in using these funds are included below.
    • Title 1, Part A. Improving Basic Programs. This program provides financial assistance through state educational agencies (SEAs) to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or percentages of poor children to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards.
    • Funds reserved under Title I for school improvement reserved under section 1003(a) - School Improvement Funds, also known as School Improvement Grants (SIG). Grants to states for Title I schools that do not make adequate yearly progress for at least 2 consecutive years. Authorized activities include the development and implementation of school improvement plans, professional development for teachers and staff, corrective actions such as instituting a new curriculum, development and implementation of restructuring plans, and the provision of public school choice and supplemental educational services options.
    • Title II, Part A - Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting. The purpose of Title II, Part A is to help increase the academic achievement of all students by helping schools and school districts ensure that all teachers are highly qualified to teach.
    • Title III, Part A - English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement. Consolidates the 13 current bilingual and immigrant education programs into a state formula program and maintains the current focus on assisting school districts in teaching English to limited-English-proficient students.
    • IDEA 2004 Title I, Part B - Assistance for Education of All Children with Disabilities. Early intervening services and response to intervention. Discretionary use of up to 15% of formula grant special education funds to LEAs.

Selecting and training a DLL teacher leader for your site is one option. If your district is geographically near a teacher training site with a registered DLL teacher leader, it may be possible to make contractual arrangements with that site for their DLL teacher leader to support your site. Some districts form a consortium to engage a DLL teacher leader to implement and support DLL.

Since Reading Recovery began in the United States in 1984, student outcomes have been documented for every child served. The achievement of specific goals for each child is measured using An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement (Clay, 2002, 2005, 2016).

Instrumento de Observación de los Logros de la Lecto-Escritura Initial (Escamilla et al., 1996) is used for assessment of Descubriendo la Lectura children. Le sondage d’observation en lecture-ecriture (Clay, 2003) is used for French Canadians learning to read and write in French.

In a recent update, the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) reviewed the six tasks of the Observation Survey as a composite and found it showed classification accuracy in identifying at-risk students in the fall or winter of first grade based on a nationally representative sample. The assessment also demonstrated strong reliability and validity. This updated review again validates the use of the Observation Survey as a valid and reliable screening tool to be used to identify and intervene with the lowest literacy achievers in Grade 1.

From time to time, IDEC will conduct research calibration with other popular measurement instruments in Literacy Education. Search popular research database to identify studies that compare the OS with other available instruments that have been completed in the past.

Effective Reading Recovery implementation reforms and improves educational systems. The quality of implementation has significant effect on outcomes and on the degree to which Reading Recovery can affect the system.

In order to achieve the maximum benefits, school systems implement Reading Recovery according to published standards for operation of the intervention. Highly effective implementations significantly reduce the number of children with severe reading problems.

Critical factors in implementation effectiveness

  • Full implementation is achieved when district support is robust enough to ensure that every child who needs Reading Recovery services has access to the intervention. This is calculated by determining individual need at individual schools and should not be construed as a district average.
  • Administrative support implementing a high-quality Reading Recovery intervention often requires changes in people’s beliefs, organizational patterns, allocation of resources, roles, and communication patterns. Administrators play a critical role in this process. They must plan for and ensure resources are committed to achieve full implementation. Close collaboration and communication among stakeholders and Reading Recovery is an integral part of the educational system.
  • Adherence to Standards and Guidelines for Reading Recovery in the United States is a cornerstone of effective implementations.

Sustaining Reading Recovery in schools 
Once established, a strong commitment to sustaining Reading Recovery ensures a strong implementation. Reading Recovery’s role in the schoolwide literacy plan must be made clear. Data collected and reported annually in Reading Recovery can be used to evaluate program success, inform decisions, and for further planning for meeting the needs of children.

A strong commitment also involves sustaining teaching and training quality through professional development opportunities. Key Reading Recovery personnel have the opportunity to participate regularly in professional development activities. Continuous learning ensures the sustained quality of an implementation.

The decision to implement Reading Recovery with fidelity is a collaborative partnership among teachers, administrators, parents, and university personnel. Strong coordination and communication among groups contributes to the success of any implementation.

Reading Recovery is based on substantial research about how children learn to read and write. Its roots are in Marie Clay’s research in classrooms and clinics as well as intensive studies from other disciplines. The What Works Clearinghouse independent review of Reading Recovery’s experimental research clearly establishes the effectiveness of the intervention based on scientific evidence.

Additional research supports the development and effectiveness of the Reading Recovery intervention.

  • The Observation Survey used in Reading Recovery has a strong research base.
  • Studies documenting the development of Reading Recovery are found in Boundless Horizons: Marie Clay’s search for the possible in children’s literacy(Watson & Askew, 2009).
  • Reading Recovery is subjected to ongoing evaluation through the collection of data on every child. (Also see Scientific Research Base and Assessment)

Phonemic Awareness (PA) is the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds (Yopp, 1992).  It is an auditory task only.

Phonics is the linking of hearing and recording sounds with letters, groups of letters, and words in an alphabetic writing system.  Phonics instruction helps students decode (break down) words during reading and encode (build) words during writing.

Teaching phonemic awareness and phonics in Reading Recovery is based upon the assessment of what the student already knows and builds systematically based on what is needed to read and write more difficult texts.

Daily lessons provide multiple opportunities to learn and strengthen phonology (PA) and phonemic awareness as well as orthography, which includes phonics.

In Reading a child learns:

  • to use phonology and phonics to monitor reading accuracy and solve new words ‘on the run’ as they orally read multiple continuous texts daily.
  • to use known words to decode and read words by analogy.

In Writing a child learns:

  • to hear the sounds in words and notice the sequence of the sounds.
  • to hear the sounds in words and represent them with letters or letter clusters.
  • to use known words to write unknown words by analogy.
  • to use common letter sequences, or spelling patterns
  • to think about sounds in words by reassembling a daily cut-up sentence based upon what needs to be learned next.

Additionally, a child

  • Uses magnetic letters to quickly and flexibly recognize letters and manipulate letters to learn how to take apart and build words as onset-rimes and syllables.
  • works with letters and related sounds (e.g., making personalized alphabet books to link sounds and letters).

Currently, training of Descubriendo la Lectura (DLL) trainers and teacher leaders is available only at Texas Woman’s University. However, teacher leaders can receive initial training in English at another university training center and go through additional professional development to ‘bridge’ to Spanish. To become a Descubriendo la Lectura teacher, a registered DLL teacher leader must be available for initial training or ‘bridging’ to Spanish and for ongoing support of the teacher’s work in Spanish. Training for a teacher leader in Intervention préventive en lecture-écriture (IPLE) is possible through arrangements with the Eastern Canadian Regional Institute of Reading Recovery and with the trainer for IPLE. To become an IPLE teacher, a registered IPLE teacher leader must be available for training and ongoing support. Information is available at these links:

Daily lessons for Reading Recovery students are essential. Missed lessons minimize the potential of the intervention outcome. For students who have difficulty remembering from day-to-day, the teacher can act as the memory of yesterday’s responses, and can prompt the child accordingly. An intensive intervention like Reading Recovery allows the teacher to closely attend to the daily shifts in the child’s responding. Clay tells us that the power of early intervention is diminished if the child is absent from lessons or if the teacher is unavailable to teach for any reason. “When daily individual teaching is not achieved, the quality of the teaching and the outcomes of the intervention will be seriously affected” (Clay, 2016, p. 21).

The one-to-one instructional setting is not a new concept in education, yet it may be more important today than ever before for the small number of first graders struggling with literacy learning. Consider the current emphasis on having all children reading and writing by third or fourth grade. The higher we set the expectations, the more efforts and resources we need to accommodate the diversity in learners. Timely short-term individual teaching for the lowest-achieving children in first grade is a critically important tool for achieving universal literacy by age 8 or 9.

One-to-one lessons allow the teacher to design the intervention to begin where the child is rather than where the curriculum is. From a practical perspective, each child who is having difficulty will differ from others in what is confusing, in knowledge gaps, and in ways of responding to print. A well-designed individual intervention tailored to each child’s needs offers a fast route to catching up and progressing with class peers.

Any grouping of these learners forces a compromise. Research on the value of group interventions for children with extreme reading difficulties is not convincing (Dorn & Allen, 1995; Harrison, 2002; Pinnell et al., 1994; Schwartz et al., 2012). Children with literacy difficulties have already demonstrated that group instruction in classrooms is not sufficient. First-grade teachers know that low achievers bring diverse needs to the learning process.

Individual teaching presents concerns about costs to administrators. Yet the cost of retention and the cost of remediation year after year can be significant. Although it may appear costly for a teacher to provide 30 minutes of one-to-one teaching for a child, the investment is a small price to pay for 30–50 hours of teaching time that changes the future for the most-vulnerable literacy learners at the beginning of their school years — and for their teachers, families, schools, systems, and communities.

A series of Reading Recovery lessons is about 12 to 20 weeks. As soon as a student makes accelerated progress and achieves the intervention goal, the series of lessons ends. But every child has the opportunity for 20 weeks of individual lessons before a decision is made about the child’s status when ending the individual lessons. Research (Clay & Tuck, 1991) revealed that premature predictions about whether a child would achieve the intervention goal could be wrong for too many children and that it would be unwise to withdraw students too soon. Students, therefore, have the opportunity for 20 weeks of instruction if lessons are not discontinued earlier after achieving accelerated progress.

All levels of Reading Recovery professional development (teachers, teacher leaders, and trainers) are tied to university graduate-level credits. The quality and intensity of sessions over a full academic year merit recognition through university standards. An academic environment and university resources support the quality of the professional learning. Successful completion of course work is required for recognition as a Reading Recovery teacher, teacher leader, or trainer.

Reading Recovery is a system intervention as well as an intervention for lowest-performing first graders. Administrators in Reading Recovery schools arrange staffing so the specially trained Reading Recovery teacher can devote a part of the day to provide daily 30-minute Reading Recovery lessons and work the other part of the day as an interventionist for other children, a classroom teacher, or a highly trained literacy resource specialist.

Reading Recovery requires that we begin with the most-severe problems so as to reduce the number of learners with extreme difficulty in literacy learning (Lose & Konstantellou, 2005). Because these are the children least likely to respond to and benefit from classroom instruction, they are selected first (Clay, 1991). They are the children who will become increasingly confused and are most likely to need extra help; without that help they likely will remain a concern throughout their school years.

These children have the opportunity for a full intervention (up to 20 weeks if needed) before outcome decisions are made. For the children who do not reach average performance, Reading Recovery serves as a pre-referral intervention for those who may need longer-term specialist help, also a positive outcome.

Outcomes cannot be predicted reliably at entry to the intervention. Selecting the lowest literacy achievers who are in a regular first-grade classroom for the first time and not being served by another supplemental literacy program ensures reliability of teacher judgment and takes care of values like children’s rights, fairness and equality, and social and linguistic inequalities (Clay, 2009a).

Evaluation reports in the United States have validated Clay’s decision to reach the lowest achievers in their classes. We learned that “all kinds of children with all kinds of difficulties can learn, and can reach average-band performance for their class in both reading and writing achievement” (Clay, 1991, p. 60) — defying previous expectations.

Any school or system not taking the lowest children is out of compliance with the Standards and Guidelines of Reading Recovery in the United States.

Search Journal Archive


Fall 2023