International Literacy Centre


Research and evaluation

Reading Recovery has been widely researched nationally and internationally. This is crucial to understanding the wider impact of intervention: it enables us to learn lessons from the past and sharpens our awareness and monitoring of the present, in order to make cost effective decisions for the future.

Research also helps refine and improve literacy intervention generally, examining issues ranging from effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, to self-esteem and continued progress. In short, research enables policymakers to have a better understanding of Reading Recovery's multiple facets. Below, we have categorised research publications based on the questions which are most commonly asked when considering whether to implement Reading Recovery.


Research into effectiveness assesses whether an intervention works in the field and can be integrated into the existing education system.  There is substantial evidence evaluating Reading Recovery’s effectiveness with the lowest-attaining pupils in a wide range of educational contexts.  Here are the most recent.

D'Agostino, J.V., & Harmey, S.J. (2016),  An International Meta- Analysis of Reading Recovery, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), Vol 21, NO.1, 29-46

Raban, B., (2016), 'Reading Recovery or Not', Australian Literacy Educators' Association

Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE). (2013, 2014, 2016). Evaluation of the i3 Scale-up of Reading Recovery reports

Continued progress

The goal of Reading Recovery is that children not only catch up with their peers but sustain those gains, remaining in the average band of literacy attainment.  Many research and evaluation studies demonstrate that Reading Recovery students maintain and improve their gains in the years following Reading Recovery.

Hurry, J. (2012) 'The impact of Reading Recovery five years after intervention'. University of London: Institute of Education.

Hurry, J. and Holliman, A. (2009) 'The impact of Reading Recovery three years after intervention'. University of London: Institute of Education.

Burroughs-Lange, S. (2008) 'Comparison of Literacy Progress of Young Children in London Schools - a Reading Recovery Follow up Study'. University of London: Institute of Education.


Given the competing demands on education budgets, literacy interventions need to be cost-effective.  No analysis has compared the different types of implementation for interventions (for example, small-group instruction with one-to-one instruction).

In Reading Recovery, the long-term benefits of literacy achievement may significantly outweigh the short-term cost of instruction and teacher preparation. By intervening early, Reading Recovery reduces later costs in special education, later catch-up programmes, and has lasting effects. The local cost of providing Reading Recovery services for 12 to 20 weeks will be substantially less than the future costs of meeting the needs of large number of pupils who cannot access the curriculum.

KPMG Foundation (2013), KPMG Foundation Impact Report

Schwartz, R.M. Schmitt, M.C. and Lose, M.K. (2012), 'Effects of teacher-student ratio in response to intervention approaches' The Elementary School Journal, 112 (4), 547-567

Department for Education (2011), 'Evaluation of Every Child a Reader (ECaR)', DFE-RR114

Reviews of research

With more than 30 years of data, Reading Recovery is the world’s most widely researched early literacy intervention.  There are many summaries of research studies to date that enable us to identify trends and determine areas for further research.

Schwartz, R. M. (2015) Ideology and Early Literacy Evidence: A Response to Chapman & Tunmer (2015). Oakland University.

What Works Clearinghouse (2013) 'Updated intervention report: Reading Recovery'. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Promising Practices Network (2013) 'Programs that work: Reading Recovery' RAND Corporation


Improving attainment can lead to improved self-esteem. Research suggests that this association is particularly strong for Reading Recovery.

Department for Education (2011), 'Evaluation of Every Child a Reader (ECaR)', DFE-RR114

Burroughs-Lange, S. and Douetil, J (2007) 'Literacy progress of young children from poor urban settings: A Reading Recovery comparison study'. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 12 (1), pp 19-46.

Burroughs-Lange, S. and Douetil, J. (2006) 'Evaluation of Reading Recovery in London schools: Every Child a Reader 2005-2006'. University of London: Institute of Education.