Key findings

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)

Instructional Process Programmes (IP)

(Changing the way the teacher teaches, eg co-operative learning)

Studies of programmes that provide extensive professional development to help teachers use well-specified teaching methods showed relatively positive effects overall.

The "mean weighted effect size" across 17 studies was +0.37, which means the difference between the achievement of children who were taught with these methods compared to children who were taught as usual. Particularly positive effects were found for co-operative learning (ES+0.46), phonics-focused professional development (ES=+0.43), and teaching of phonological awareness to 5 and 6 year-olds (ES=+0.22 by the age of 7 or 8).

Instructional Technology (IT) 

(Where technology is used to support beginning reading)

Studies of Instructional Technology found minimal effect sizes. Mean weighted effect size across 13 studies: +0.09.

Reading Curricula (Curr)


Studies of reading curricula also found minimal effects of using particular textbooks. Mean weighted effect size across 7 studies: +0.12.

Combined Curriculum and Instructional Process Programmes (Curr + IP) 

(Programmes that both change how the teacher teaches, and include innovative curricula, eg Success for All and Direct Instruction)

Our review found that programmes that combine innovative phonetic materials with extensive professional development for teachers found positive effects overall. In particular, positive effects were found for Success for All (ES=0.29 in 23 studies).

*Overall, 62 experimental-control comparisons met the inclusion criteria, of which 17 used random assignment to treatments. Effect sizes (experimental-control differences as a proportion of a standard deviation) were averaged across studies, weighting by sample size. Effect sizes of more than +0.20 are considered educationally significant.