ERIC Identifier: ED469927
Publication Date: 2002-12-00
Author: Brynildssen, Shawna
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN., Family Learning Association
Recent Reading Initiatives: Examples of National, State, and
Professional Organizations' Efforts. ERIC Digest.
Statistics on the literacy skills of America's children reveal a disturbing
situation. Approximately 40 percent of students across the nation cannot read at
a basic level. And for low-income students, the figure is much worse (No Child
Left Behind, 2002). In response to this situation, a number of efforts are
underway-spearheaded by federal and state policymakers and a number of
independent organizations-to remedy the situation. This Digest looks at some of
the most recent of those initiatives.
In 1997, Congress asked the National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development to form a panel to review and
evaluate the various approaches used in reading instruction. The National
Reading Panel (NRP) conducted a two-year study in which panel members reviewed
over one hundred thousand studies on how students learn to read. The panel also
held a series of open panel and regional meetings to gather input from
policymakers, educators, and parents across the nation.
The NRP's findings were published in April of 2000, and identified what the
panel believed to be the most important components of reading instruction. These
were alphabetic's (both phonemic awareness and phonics instruction), fluency,
comprehension, teacher education, and computer technology.
The findings of the NRP report were important in the development of Reading
First, the literacy component of President Bush's 2001 "No Child Left Behind"
Act. Reading First is a state grant program that will provide some $6 billion
over the next several years to fund scientifically based reading-improvement
efforts. The funds will be awarded to programs that teach the following five key
early reading skills: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and
comprehension. The first grants were awarded in August of 2002 to be used for
the 2002-2003 school year.
There are many ongoing state reading
initiatives. While they vary in approach, scope, and success, most share similar
According to the Education Commission of the States (2001), the most common
strategies used by state programs are "1) preventing and intervening with
reading difficulties; 2) imposing consequences for students who do not meet
reading standards; 3) promoting or mandating particular reading approaches or
programs; 4) providing additional or better data; 5) providing teachers with
skills and knowledge; 6) setting standards, developing reading plans; and 7)
assessing readiness for school."
One of the state efforts is the Texas Reading Initiative. Now in its fourth
year, the initiative utilizes a scientific research-based, multi-pronged
approach that aims to have all children reading at or above grade level by their
third-grade year. The program consists of six major components:
Leadership development. A key element of the state's professional development
efforts is the use of Teacher Reading Academies-intensive, four-day training
sessions on scientific research-based reading instruction, for kindergarten and
Diagnostic assessment. The Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI) is the primary
instrument used to test K-2 students. It measures ability in the areas of print
awareness, phonemic awareness, graphophonemic knowledge, oral reading ability,
and reading comprehension skills.
Comprehensive research-based programs. The state's reading instruction program
focuses on oral language, reading, and writing, and emphasizes phonemic
awareness, concepts of print, decoding, comprehension strategies, literary
response/analysis, inquiry/research, writing to learn, and grammar and spelling.
Intermediate intervention. Students identified as struggling readers are placed
in accelerated reading programs, and receive an additional 30 minutes of
interventional instruction by specially trained teachers.
Progress monitoring. Teachers assess individual students' reading performance on
an ongoing basis, and provide differentiated instruction that allows them to
proceed and succeed at their own pace.
End-of-year performance analysis. Student performance is monitored annually via
the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and other district-approved
Another state effort is the Alabama Reading Initiative, begun in 1997, when
more than 97,000 of the state's third- through eleventh-grade students scored in
the lowest quarter of the nation in reading. The resulting strategy for
improvement is scientifically-based and focuses on three areas. The first,
Beginning Reading, emphasizes development of phonemic awareness and systematic
teaching of language decoding skills. The second, Expanding Reading Power, aims
to maintain high literacy levels in middle and high school students through
ongoing vocabulary development, increased reading, and building explicit links
between reading and writing. Alabama's third area of focus is Effective
Intervention, which identifies and provides specialized instruction for children
who are reading below grade level.
An evaluation of the Alabama program, conducted in its second year, showed
that students in the participating schools had already made gains on the
Stanford reading test. Additionally, teachers in the participating schools
reported a number of positive changes-including improved student and teacher
Other state programs include:
The South Carolina Reading Initiative. This state's program, a three-year
initiative, utilizes district and regional literacy coaches to provide onsite
administrators and teachers with support and direction.
The Oregon Reading Initiative: Reading Together! Oregon's plan emphasizes
teacher development, calling for higher standards to prepare new teachers and
state institutes to train teachers in reading strategies. It also stresses
family and community involvement and manageable class size as key factors.
PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS' EFFORTS
In addition to federal
and state programs, a number of literacy initiatives have been launched by
independent nonprofit organizations. Some examples are listed below.
Success for All is a literacy program premised on the belief that every child
can read. Based on studies in reading and cooperative learning, it emphasizes
oral reading by both teachers and students, discussion, story retelling, and a
host of cooperative reading and writing activities. Since its inception in 1987,
Success for All has grown to include some 1,500 schools in 47 states. It focuses
on disadvantaged and at-risk students, serving primarily high-poverty Title I
Children's Literacy Initiative (CLI) is also aimed at boosting the reading
skills of children from low-income homes. The program centers around
professional development for K-3 teachers, beginning with a three-day training
institute and following up with one-on-one, onsite coaching. Some studies on the
effectiveness of CLI indicate that the program results in improved reading and
vocabulary test performance for participating students (Children's Literacy
The NCTE Reading Initiative is an intensive, three-year professional development
program offered by the National Council of Teachers of English. The initiative
is based on "insights from school change research; the learning potential of
inquiry-based, constructivist theories for learners of all ages; and the
trans-disciplinary knowledge base on literacy and literacy instruction" (NCTE,
Born to Read is a three-year national demonstration project conducted by the
American Library Association. It is designed to create a model for partnership
between library workers and health care providers, with the goal of teaching new
and expectant at-risk parents to "raise readers." There are currently five
libraries functioning as demonstration sites for the program.
Alabama Reading Initiative Is Bright Spot for
Learning. Education Reporter. (2000, February). Retrieved from
Association for Library Services to Children of American Library Association.
(2001). Born to read: A project fact sheet. Retrieved September 8, 2002, from
Children's Literacy Initiative. (2000). The effectiveness of the CLI Program:
3 Studies. Retrieved September 8, 2002, from
Fulton, M. & Porter, M. (2001). Common State Strategies to Improve
Student Reading. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States.
National Council of Teachers of English. (2000). NCTE Reading Initiative:
Curriculum Overview. Retrieved on September 9, 2002, from
National Reading Panel. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel:
Teaching Children to Read. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development. http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org/
Oregon Department of Education. (n.d.). Reading Together! The Oregon Reading
Initiative. Retrieved September 8, 2002, from
Slavin, R. & Madden, N. (1999). Success for All/Roots and Wings: Summary
of research on achievement and outcomes. Baltimore: Center for Research on the
Education of Students Placed at Risk.
South Carolina State Department of Education. (2002). Governor's Institute of
Reading: SC Reading Initiative. Retrieved on September 9, 2002, from
Texas Reading Initiative/Texas Education Agency. (n.d.). Six Components of
the Texas Reading Initiative. Retrieved on September 8, 2002, from
U.S. Department of Education. (2002). The Facts about... Reading First.
Retrieved on September 9, 2002, from