Please take our brief survey

Blueprints Programs = Positive Youth Development

Return to Search Results

Promising Program Seal

Reading Recovery

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

A one-on-one tutoring intervention designed to reduce the number of first-grade students who have extreme difficulty learning to read and write and to reduce the cost of these learners to educational systems.

Program Outcomes

  • Academic Performance

Program Type

  • Academic Services
  • Mentoring - Tutoring
  • School - Individual Strategies
  • Skills Training

Program Setting

  • School

Continuum of Intervention

  • Indicated Prevention (Early Symptoms of Problem)


  • Late Childhood (5-11) - K/Elementary


  • Male and Female


  • All Race/Ethnicity


  • Blueprints: Promising
  • What Works Clearinghouse: Meets Standards Without Reservations - Positive Effect

Program Information Contact

Reading Recovery Council of North America
500 West Wilson Bridge Road, Suite 250
Worthington, Ohio 43085-5218
Phone: 614-310-READ (7323)
Main Fax: 614-310-7345
Conference Dept. Fax: 614-310-7342

Program Developer/Owner

  • Dr. Marie M. Clay, Deceased

Brief Description of the Program

The program is an intensive one-to-one tutoring intervention program for the poorest readers (lowest 20%) in first-grade classrooms. During daily 30-minute lessons, teachers who are specifically trained in Reading Recovery techniques individually tutor up to eight faltering readers to help them develop the kinds of strategies that good readers use. For the first 10 days, the teacher does not teach, but rather, explores reading and writing with the child to determine specific needs. During the following days, Reading Recovery lessons evolve around reading small story books (the teacher chooses from 500 books organized into 20 reading levels), manipulating letters and words, and composing and writing a story. Specific skills taught include problem solving strategies based on self-monitoring, cross-checking, predicting, and confirming, as well as the use of multiple sources of information while reading and writing. Children typically leave the program within 12 to 20 weeks (60 sessions), depending on when they reach the average level of text reading for their class.

See: Full Description


Primary findings:

  • Consistent evidence confirmed that Reading Recovery improves reading and writing skills of low-achieving first-graders compared to a control group measured at posttest.
  • Mixed results regarding long-term effects of Reading Recovery.

Secondary findings:

  • Compared to alternative interventions (e.g., Reading Success, Phonological training), Reading Recovery consistently produced the strongest improvements in children’s reading and writing skills.
  • Reading Recovery was able to produce a better attitude towards learning among low-achieving students.
  • Reading Recovery was effective among Spanish students in its Spanish version Descubriendo la Lectura.

Sirinides et al. (2018) found that at posttest, compared to participants in the control condition, participants in the intervention condition showed significantly greater improvements in:

  • Reading achievement
  • Literacy achievement
  • Reading words
  • Reading comprehension

Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

The program targets at-risk first-graders of any race/ethnicity and both genders. A Spanish version of the program has been tested with Spanish-speaking students.

Sirinides et al. (2018) found that race did not significantly moderate intervention effects.

Risk and Protective Factors

Risk Factors
  • School: Poor academic performance*
Protective Factors
  • Individual: Problem solving skills
  • School: Instructional Practice

*Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.

See also: Reading Recovery Logic Model (PDF)

Training and Technical Assistance

Each site must train a Reading Recovery teacher leader at a recognized Reading Recovery university training center (UTC) or have access to a trained teacher leader. Teacher leaders train Reading Recovery teachers and oversee implementation in the site. The salaries of teacher leaders vary according to location and experience, and training costs vary across UTCs. Reading Recovery teachers are trained for an academic year, with ongoing professional development in subsequent years, while providing Reading Recovery in a school as part of their teaching load. Each school will have one or more teachers assigned to this role, based on the number of students needing the intervention. Program guidelines limit the number of teachers supported and monitored by a teacher leader to 42. Training includes:

  • An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement (Clay, 2002, 2006, 2013) is used for training assessment procedures. Assessment training lasts four days and includes monitored testing of children.
  • Teacher training includes a weekly university course for an academic year, including the observation and discussion of live lessons behind a one-way glass. Training materials include two books that detail teaching procedures and implementation issues (Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals Part One and Part Two, Clay, 2005a and 2005b) and a nonconsumable set of books for children to read.
  • In addition to weekly classes, the teacher leader makes a minimum of four school visits to support teachers and is available for ongoing consultation.
  • Additional texts and articles are used to enhance training and ongoing implementation. The publication entitled Standards and Guidelines of Reading Recovery in the United States (RRCNA, 2015) details implementation standards (required) and guidelines (recommended) for Reading Recovery sites, including requirements for professional development for teachers and teacher leaders. Intensive year-long training of teacher leaders at university training centers is guided by a Teacher Leader Preparation Framework to ensure fidelity of the intervention.

After the initial training year, a registered Reading Recovery teacher leader provides annual professional development for Reading Recovery teachers. This includes a minimum of six sessions, some of which must include live lessons, and at least one school visit. Training and implementation materials continue to be used to deepen understandings of teaching and implementing within a school setting.

Teacher leaders and site coordinators protect the integrity of the standards for implementing Reading Recovery and communicate to various constituents. University trainers provide technical support to each site’s teacher leader and site coordinator.

More specific information about training and support follows:

University Course (Initial Training)

Reading Recovery teacher training begins with a week of intensive assessment training for which university credit may or may not be granted. Then Reading Recovery teachers begin a weekly university course (with credits) taught by the Reading Recovery teacher leader for the site (schools within an established Reading Recovery teacher training site). The site pays university tuition to a Reading Recovery-affiliated university for each teacher-in-training. Costs vary among universities. The weekly classes last for an academic year and include the following:

  • Weekly sessions make extensive use of a one-way glass screen/mirror through which teachers observe colleagues working with a child and put their observations and analyses into words as they build new understandings to inform teaching decisions. All teachers are required to teach behind the one-way glass.
  • Teachers learn teaching procedures and study the theoretical rationales for selecting appropriate procedures to meet the current needs of each child.
  • Application of learning is gained by teaching four children individually on a daily basis (as each child completes his series of lessons, he is replaced by a child who begins individual lessons).
  • Attention is given to daily and weekly records of each child’s reading and writing behaviors to analyze progress and solve problems.
  • Teachers learn procedures for submitting data to the International Data Evaluation Center.
  • The teacher leader makes on-site school visits to observe the teachers-in-training and provide ongoing support.

Reading Recovery teacher training is comprehensive, complex, and intensive because each teacher must learn to design and deliver individual daily lessons. No prescriptive manual or packaged set of materials can meet each child’s individual needs. Reading Recovery teachers must learn to

  • assess each child’s current understandings,
  • closely observe and record behaviors for evidence of progress,
  • use teaching procedures competently and appropriately,
  • design individual series of lessons daily,
  • critically evaluate themselves and their peers,
  • understand the theory behind their teaching,
  • use data to inform teaching, and
  • communicate about Reading Recovery in their schools.

The university course is generally taught at a facility constructed by the training site — a special facility with a one-way glass and appropriate space, furniture, and materials. This facility is often in a school or a central office facility within the site. Sessions are very interactive, involving live teaching sessions accompanied by verbal observations of the child’s literacy behaviors and the teacher’s decisions. Time is also dedicated to discussion of teaching procedures, designing lessons, gaining understanding of the theory driving the teaching, and using data to make teaching decisions. Classes also address processes for implementation within the schools.

School Visits

Teacher leaders make school visits to Reading Recovery teachers-in-training and to trained teachers. A typical visit may involve the observation of two lessons accompanied by conversations about the progress the children are making. The two professionals use records and observations as data to discuss decisions and future actions for each child. Most school visits last approximately 2 hours, but time is dependent on the purpose of the visit and specific needs of the teacher and/or children.

Additional Support

Teacher leaders provide continuing support to teachers via email, phone, and other means of communication as appropriate. There are no established time limitations for this support; however, realistic limitations are determined by the workload of the teacher leader.

Teacher leaders participate in ongoing professional develop through university training centers and annual institutes organized by the North American Trainers Group (NATG), a network of academics from each of these university centers.

Brief Evaluation Methodology

(May et al., 2013, 2014): These two randomized controlled trials estimated short-term program impacts on student achievement after the 12-20 week program. Both studies were part of a national scale-up implementation of Reading Recovery. Of the schools implementing the program, 209 and 348 were randomly selected to participate in the trial, of which 158 and 267 implemented the random condition assignments. At each school, the eight first-grade students with the lowest reading achievement were matched according to pretest scores and English language learner status, and within each pair, one student was randomly assigned to treatment and the other to control. The studies administered pretests prior to randomization and posttests at the conclusion of the intervention (midway through the school year). Of the 1,253 and 2,067 randomly assigned students, 866 (69%) and 1430 (69%) students in 147 and 233 schools had Reading Recovery data, outcome data, and a match with complete data.

Other studies:
: All other studies used quasi-experimental designs to study program effects (e.g., Pinnell et al., 1988; Curry, Griffith, & Williams, 1995; Burroughs-Lange & Douetil, 2007) or a mix of quasi-experimental and randomized control trial designs (e.g., Pinnell et al., 1994; Baenen et al., 1997; Hurry & Sylva, 2007). In most of these cases schools that were already implementing Reading Recovery were selected and were matched with schools of similar characteristics that formed the control group.
Conditions: Usually, the Reading Recovery treatment was compared to a control group without access to the program. However, some studies have investigated variations of Reading Recovery by modifying the instruction framework (one-to-one instruction vs. small groups) or the teacher training model (varying underlying training philosophy and training length) (Pinnell et al., 1994). Other studies have compared Reading Recovery to other types of interventions (e.g., Phonological Training, Hurry & Sylva, 2007).
Sample size: Usually samples were of medium size, including between 300 and 500 students (intervention and control group combined), located in 20 to 40 schools in up to 10 school districts.
Assessment: Some studies evaluated only posttest effects (e.g. Escamilla, 1994; Burroughs-Lange & Douetil, 2007), while the majority investigated the sustainability of the program effects between one and three years after the intervention was completed.
Locations: The program has been implemented in locations with diverse SES characteristics in various countries (e.g., US, Australia, England).

Sirinides et al. (2018) evaluated the program in a multisite randomized controlled trial in which 9,784 first-grade students were matched on a number of language- and reading-related outcomes and then randomly assigned to the Reading Recovery intervention (n=4892) or a waitlist control (n=4892). Students’ reading achievement was assessed through two well-validated standardized reading assessments at baseline and following the conclusion of the program, which lasted 12 to 20 weeks depending on individual students’ progress.

Peer Implementation Sites

If you would like to contact a site currently implementing this program, please contact:

Jady Johnson, Executive Director
Reading Recovery Council of North America
500 West Wilson Bridge Road, Suite 250
Worthington, Ohio 43085-5218
Phone: (614) 310-7323
Fax: (614) 310-7345


Baenen, N., Bernhole, A., Dulaney, C., & Banks, K. (1997). Reading Recovery: Long-term progress after three cohorts. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 2(2), 161-181.

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

Center, Y., Wheldall, K., Freeman, L., Outhred, L., & McNaught, M. (1995). An evaluation of Reading Recovery. Reading Research Quarterly, 30(2), 240-263.

Curry, J., Griffith, J., & Williams, H. (1995). Reading Recovery in AISD. Austin Independent School District: Department of Audit and Evaluation.

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.

Escamilla, K. (1994). Descrubriendo la Lectura: An early intervention literacy program in Spanish. Literacy, Teaching, and Learning, 1(1), 58-70.

Hurry, J., & Sylva, K. (2007). Long-term outcomes of early reading intervention. Journal of Research in Reading, 30(3), 227-248.

May, H., Gray, A., Gillespie, J. N., Sirinides, P., Sam, C., Goldsworthy, H., ... Tognatta, N. (2013). Evaluation of the i3 Scale-up of Reading Recovery: Year one report, 2011-12. Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

May, H., Goldsworthy, H., Armijo, M., Gray, A., Sirinides, P., Blalock, T. J., ... Sam, C. (2014). Evaluation of the i3 Scale-up of Reading Recovery: Year Two Report, 2012-13. Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

Pinnell, G. S., DeFord, D. E., & Lyons, C. A. (1988). Reading Recovery: Early intervention for at-risk first graders (Educational Research Service Monograph). Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.

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

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.