Struggling readers

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 (218 pages)

What Works for Struggling Readers?

As a PDF document

The importance of getting children off to a good start in reading cannot be overstated. Success in primary school is virtually synonymous with success in reading, and those children who lack the ability to read as they move to secondary education inevitably face problems in every subject as a result.

There are many proven and promising approaches for struggling readers, and it is imperative that these are utilised to reduce the numbers of children who fail to read adequately.

  • We looked at all available evidence on programmes designed to improve the achievement of struggling readers, in order to establish what we know works for pupils aged 5-11.
  • We examined all studies of programmes for struggling readers 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 key findings of the review were that:

  • One-to-one tutoring works. Teachers are more effective as tutors than paraprofessionals or volunteers, and an emphasis on phonics greatly improves tutoring outcomes.
  • Although one-to-one phonetic tutoring for children aged six and seven is highly effective, effects last into the upper primary years only if classroom interventions continue beyond this initial period.
  • Small group tutorials can be effective, but are not as effective as one-to-one instruction by teachers or paraprofessionals.
  • Classroom teaching process approaches, especially co-operative learning and structured phonetic models, have strong effects for low achievers (as well as other pupils).
  • Traditional computer-assisted programmes have little impact on reading.

The full report (which this review summarises) is also available.