Beginning reading

Educator's summary

As a PDF document

As web pages:
- Key findings
- Top-rated programmes
- Programmes with limited evidence
- Other programmes
- Review methods

Full report

As a PDF document (168 pages)

During Key Stage 1 most children go through an extraordinary transformation as readers. If all goes well, by the end of Key Stage 1 they should know the sounds of all letters and be able to form them into words, know the most common sight words, and read and comprehend simple texts – all the basic skills of turning print into meaning.

Success at this stage can be crucial to success in later years.

This review summarises research on beginning reading programmes.

  • We looked at all available evidence on programmes designed to improve beginning reading achievement, in order to establish what we know works for primary pupils aged 5-7.
  • We examined all studies of beginning reading programmes from all countries, as long as a report was available in English. (NB Most studies took place in the US).
  • We were then able to assess and compare the effectiveness of these programmes.

Descriptions and ratings for all the programmes are included in this summary.

The results of the review show that

  • the most successful programmes focus on changing daily teaching practices, such as the use of co-operative learning methods
  • programmes that combine a focus on phonics with innovative teaching practices work best of all.

However, although the review highlighted the importance of using phonics, simply using books with more phonics or doing workshops on phonics is not enough to bring about widespread improvement in children's reading.