Reading Recovery

Team Members: Jessica Costa, Amanda Donato, Kat​harine O'Connor, Stephanie Pitassi
Manufacturer/Producer: Dame Marie Clay (Educator and Psychologist from New Zealand)
Copyright: 2001-2009 (Ohio/Reading Council of North America)
Average cost per pupil for typical 12-20 week period = $3,750

What is Reading Recovery?

Reading Recovery is an early, short term intervention of one-to-one tutoring for the lowest achieving first graders in reading and writing. Individual students receive one on one instruction for 30 minutes each school day over a 12-20 week period. Teachers who administer this program are highly trained professionals. As soon as a student can meet grade level expecations and demonstrates that they can work independently in the classroom, lessons are stopped

Analysis of Program

Research Based

-- Reading Recovery is a research based program. It has a strong scientific research base which has been validated by the United States Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse review of beginning reading programs. The program received high ratings for effectiveness across four categories, alphabetic, fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement.


-- This program focuses on literacy skills only.

Developmental Progression of Skills

-- The method works with first grade students only who are struggling in the beginning stages of reading. It works to catch those students up to the rest of the class. It is an early intervention strategy that will hopefully help children become confident readers and help them succeed throughout their schooling.


-- The method provides structured teacher led instruction, but allows for students to grow and problem solve with minimal support. Children involved in the program receive 30 minute daily lessons taught by teachers who have been specially trained. Usually after 12-20 week sessions, students (about 75%) are up to grade level expectations. The lessons are taught one on one and are individualized for the student. The specially trained teacher provides opportunities for the student to problem solve, using texts from within the classroom, and provides just enough support to allow the child to develop strategic problem solving strategies to use on texts in both reading and writing. This method encourages students to read and problem solve with print so that decoding becomes purposeful and students are able to read fluently.

Multi-Sensory InstructionRR%20Letters.jpg

--Reading Recovery also includes multi-sensory instruction. Each lesson consi sts of reading familiar books, reading yesterday's new book and taking a running record, working with letters and/or words using magnetic letters, writing a story, assembling a cut-up story, and reading a new book.

Opportunities for Practice and Learning Mastery

--Students work one on one for 12-20 weeks for 30 minutes each day until they meet Grade Level Expectations. If the student does not meet GLEs within this time frame the student does not necessarily continue the program, but rather the school makes a professional decision based on what they think is best for the individual student.
--Teachers are given many opportunities for professional development. There are weekly after school classes where teachers can be observed from two way glass that allow them to practice in authentic contexts and further their mastery of the model.

Strategy Instruction

--Reading Recovery includes instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, comprehension, and fluency. Every lesson incorporates learning about letter/sound relationships, and children are taught to hear and record sounds and to work with spelling patterns.
Reading Recovery encourages comprehension and problem solving with print so that decoding is purposeful and students read fluently.

General Education Connection

--Reading Recovery does not work in isolation. It must work in conjunction with classroom instruction and other educational support and management systems. Teachers use texts from the general education classroom lessons to read in Reading Recovery instruction so that the books have meaning and are not simply irrelevant passages. The classroom teacher and Reading Recovery trained professional must work in coordination with one another.


-- There are multiple forms of assessment components that not only analyze the progress of the students involved in the program, but there are also components that assess the Reading Recovery program itself. These assessments include:
1) Assessing Effectiveness of Implementation of Reading Recovery Within an Educational System
2) Assessing the Effect of the Intervention on the Educational System
3) Assessing the Quality of Reading Recovery Implementation and most importantly
4) Using Data to Assess Effectiveness with First-Grad
e Students.
All Reading Recovery teachers are trained to use Clay’s An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement to assess each child’s strengths and needs. For example, in the beginning of the year, students in 1st grade who are having trouble learning to read and write are identified for the Reading Recovery program. Then the Reading Recovery teacher will administers Clay’s Observation Survey to each of the students in the program. However, the assessment does not stop there. Reading Recovery requires careful record keeping and continuous monitoring of student progress. The teacher takes a running record of the child’s progress on reading fluency every day and uses this information to plan future lessons. The teacher also uses other observational data to create instruction, such as, lesson records each day, writing samples from the student, and reading and writing vocabulary. In addition, the general education teacher as well as the Reading Recovery teacher will continue to monitor and support the progress of students for the rest of the year, once they have succeeded and completed the Reading Recovery program.



--The Reading Recovery teacher uses different 1st grade level text books which include familiar books, new books, and books that the general education teacher is working on in class. The teacher also uses a running record sheet as well as p aper and a writi ng utensil b ecause students perform some type of writing sample each day, it is usually writing a short story. The paper is also used because the teacher will write out events that occurred in a sto ry, or write out complete sentences and then c ut them up and scramble them, then the s tudent must assemble the cut up pieces in the correct order. Lastly, teachers use magnetic letters because each lesson students work with words, letters, and letter sound relationships.

Group Size

--Reading Recovery does not involve group work. It is solely a one-to-one 30 minute instructional period that occurs outside of the classroom between the struggling student and the trained Reading Recovery teacher.


--Reading Recovery teachers are trained for one year by Reading Recovery teacher trainers (tutors). During this year, teachers
      • teach a minimum of four students individually in daily lessons of 30 minutes, five days per week
      • participate in assessment training sessions in systematic observational procedures
      • participate in scheduled professional development sessions
      • collect and analyze data on students
      • participate in school visits with the Reading Recovery teacher trainer and colleagues as requested to discuss student progress and improve teaching practice
      • teach for their peers as required


--According to the Reading Recovery Council of North America, the Reading Recovery program should be implemented on a one-on-one basis and not used with small or large groups. This is because “it enables the teacher to design each lesson to meet the unique needs of each struggling reader.”(Reading Recovery Council of North America) Individualized instruction is the primary focus, so it would be difficult to implement Reading Recovery into an inclusive classroom with many students. Numerous studies were done that proved this claim and the results demonstrated that “students in the group with standard individual Reading Recovery instruction performed better than any of the other groups, including those taught in small groups by a Reading Recovery Teacher.” (Reading Recovery Council of North America, “One-to-One Instruction is Superior to Small-Group Intervention for Struggling Young Readers”).


--A strength of Reading Recovery is the fact that it requires one-on-one instruction. This allows the teacher to treat each student as an individual and to tailor instruction that meets the needs of the student. Another strength of Reading Recovery is that because this program is implemented so early (first grade), it can more efficiently close the achievement gap between those who succeed and those who struggle. The “wait to fail” approach does not apply to this program because students are given extra reading assistance early on in their education.


--According to a journal article by Meree Reynolds and Kevin Wheldall, Reading Recovery has some weaknesses. Some studies have shown that students with poor phonemic awareness continue to struggle in this area, particularly those students who have severe difficulties with reading. When students were tested after the program was completed it showed that Reading Recovery had not helped with deficiencies in phonological processing. Another weakness of the program is the high cost of implementing the program. Although the cost can vary, when including the program itself, teacher training, resources, etc, the cost can be as high as $9,000. Some educators do not agree that the program has to be used on a one-on-one basis. They feel that small groups could be just as effective and would also help to eliminate some of the high costs of the program.


Final Thoughts

We would try Reading Recovery as a first year special education teacher. Reading Recovery does have some weaknesses, but it is important to remember that no literacy program is perfect. This program would be helpful to include as a response to intervention strategy, especially for young students in first grade. A child who struggles in literacy will not have to “wait to fail” in future grades because Reading Recovery is an initial intervention strategy. We also like that the program emphasizes one-on-one interaction between the teacher and the student. This may take some extra planning time on the part of the teacher, but it allows the teacher to really get to know the student and his or her strengths and weaknesses. Once the student’s strengths and weaknesses are known, instruction can be modified to fit the child’s needs. It is also encouraging to know that according to the Reading Recovery Council of North America, 75% of children who use the program make enough progress in the classroom that extra help is no longer needed.

Teacher Recommendation

A teacher from Primrose Hill Elementary in Barrington RI, says that although she does not use the program currently she would recommend it and the only problem is that it only helps the neediest students in the first grade classroom. She believes that the one on one time is effective for students and extremely beneficial. She believes that it is an effective program as long as the classroom teacher continues to reinforce with the student what was practiced in the reading recovery program. She also stated that the program seems to be dying off a little at a time because with the RTI initiative many first graders will receive direct reading support through a specialist and/or another support person within the school. But overall, she thought it was effective for those students who are at a serious risk of failure and need one to one support sustained over a length of time.

"One-to-One Instruction is Superior to Small-Group Intervention for Struggling Young Readers." Reading Recovery Council of North America. 2006. Web. 11 Nov. 2009. <>.
Reading Recovery Council of North America. Reading Recovery Council of North America, 2001-2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2009.
Reynolds, Meree, and Kevin Wheldall. "Reading Recovery 20 Years Down the Track: Looking Forward, Looking Back." International Journal of Disability, Development and Education 54.2 (2007): 199-223.