Over the last 25 years, the federal government has made a concerted effort to find out why so many children struggle with learning to read. This research has yielded a rough consensus on the best ways to teach reading, and we now know much more about how to identify children at risk and how to intervene effectively. The challenge that remains is getting this research-based information out to educators, parents, and others who work with children.
The following are major federal reports on reading readiness and instruction, ordered alphabetically. Whenever possible, we've provided links to a free, online version of the research article, study, or book. In other cases, you'll find a link to a publisher, journal, or online bookstore where you can obtain the resource. Before you buy though, we encourage you to check to see what community and university resources may be available to you. Universities and some public libraries often buy access to online databases and journals. Users should check to see if those resources are available to them.
What you'll find here:
Becoming a Nation of Readers (2000)
In 1984, under the auspices of the National Academy of Education, the Center for the Study of Reading produced a report on the status of research and instructional practice in reading education.
Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers
What will it take to provide better early education and care for our children between the ages of two and five? Eager to Learn explores this crucial question, synthesizing the newest research findings on how young children learn and how very early in life learning really begins. The book is from the Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy, established by the National Research Council in 1997. The study was carried out at the request of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement (Early Childhood Institute) and the Office of Special Education Programs, the Spencer Foundation, and the Foundation for Child Development.
From Neurons to Neighborhoods (2000)
Drawing from new findings, this book presents important conclusions about nature-versus-nurture, the impact of being born into a working family, the effect of politics on programs for children, the costs and benefits of intervention, and other issues. Authoritative yet accessible, From Neurons to Neighborhoods presents the evidence about "brain wiring" and how kids learn to speak, think, and regulate their behavior. It examines the effect of the climate-family, child care, community-within which the child grows.
NAEP: The Nation's Report Card (annual)
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as "The Nation's Report Card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Since 1969, assessments have been conducted periodically in reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, and the arts.
Vocabulary Results from the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Reading Assessments
A National Assessment of Educational Progress report reveals gaps in vocabulary achievement among students from families of different income levels and students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. While the assessment only recently began measuring vocabulary, officials say results already show connections between vocabulary skills and reading comprehension.
National Reading Panel Report (2000)
The National Reading Panel was convened by Congress in 1997 to identify the characteristics of effective reading instruction. It was charged with providing a report that "should present the panel's conclusions, an indication of the readiness for application in the classroom of the results of this research, and, if appropriate, a strategy for rapidly disseminating this information to facilitate effective reading instruction in the schools. If found warranted, the panel should also recommend a plan for additional research regarding early reading development and instruction."
Download executive summary (144K PDF)*
This 35-page report explains the origin of the panel and its congressional charge. It succinctly describes the research methodology used and the findings of each of the panel subgroups. This report also offers information provided by panel members on reading instruction topics that may require further exploration.
Download reports of the subgroups (2.22MB PDF)*
This 480-page report contains an executive summary and reports from each subgroup that introduces the topic area, outlines the group's methodology, and highlights their questions and results. For easier downloading, you can also download individual chapters from the report by clicking below:
- Chapter 2: Alphabetics
- Part I: Phonemic Awareness Instruction (432K PDF)*
- Part II: Phonics Instruction (404K PDF)*
- Chapter 4: Comprehension
- Executive Summary and Introduction (74K PDF)*
- Part I: Vocabulary Instruction (180K PDF)*
- Part II: Text Comprehension Instruction (344K PDF)*
- Part III: Teacher Preparation and Comprehension Strategies Instruction (241K PDF)*
NICHD Research Program in Reading Development, Reading Disorders, and Reading Instruction (1999)
Since 1965, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has conducted and continuously supported research efforts to address three fundamental questions that must be answered if reading failure is to be understood and addressed successfully. These three questions are: (1) How do children learn to read? What are the critical environmental, experiential, cognitive, linguistic, genetic, neurobiological, and instructional conditions that foster reading development? (2) Why do some children and adults have difficulties learning to read? What specific cognitive, linguistic, environmental, and instructional factors impede the development of accurate and fluent reading skills, and what are the most significant risk factors that predispose youngsters to reading failure? (3) How can we help most children learn to read? Specifically, for which children are which teaching approaches and strategies most beneficial at which stages of reading development?
The purpose of this report is to synthesize the major converging findings that have been obtained by NICHD scientists for each of the three questions that have guided the reading research program. This synthesis is derived from an analysis of over 2,500 publications generated by NICHD scientists since 1965.
NICHD Study of Early Child Care (2001)
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care enrolled more than 1,300 children and followed most of them through the first seven years of their lives to determine how variations in child care are related to their development.
Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (1998)
The Committee for the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children was established by the National Academy of Sciences to study the comparative effectiveness of interventions for young children who are at risk of having problems learning to read. The goals of the project were: (1) to comprehend a rich but fragmented research base; (2) to translate the research findings into advice and guidance for parents, educators, publishers, and others involved in the care and instruction of the young; and (3) to convey this advice to the targeted audiences through a variety of publications, conferences, and other outreach activities. Their report was published in 1998.