Scientifically based reading research (SBRR) uses rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain knowledge about reading development, reading instruction, and reading difficulties. This type of reading research involves controlled experiments with data analysis and a thorough peer-review process.
The National Research Panel (NRP), composed of some of the nation’s leading experts in reading research, was charged by Congress to review the growing body of reading research. The NRP used the following guidelines to determine which studies met the scientific standard for evidence. First, research must address achievement in one or more skills in reading. Second, it must be generalizable to the larger population of students. Third, the research needs to examine the effectiveness of an approach by comparison with other types of instruction. Finally, other scholars from the field must review the research and consider it high quality.
The Five Essential Components of Effective Reading Instruction
Scientifically based reading research has identified explicit and systematic instruction in five key areas as essential to effective early reading instruction. Reading programs must provide explicit and systematic instruction in these five areas to ensure that students become proficient readers. Click to learn more about each one:
The understanding that individual sounds of spoken language (phonemes) work together to make words. This allows readers to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds.
The relationship between the sounds of spoken language (phonemes) and the letters representing those sounds in written language (graphemes). Skill in phonics helps students to recognize familiar words and decode unfamiliar ones.
The ability to store information about the meaning and pronunciation of words. There are four types of vocabulary: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
The skill of reading texts accurately and quickly, which allows readers to recognize and comprehend words at the same time.
Understanding, remembering, and communicating with others about what has been read. Comprehension strategies help readers to make sense of a text.
No Approved List of Reading First Programs
Reading First’s requirement for SBRR does not mean that there is an “approved list” of reading programs which schools may use. Reading First allows states and districts to make choices about reading instruction, as long as the programs and materials selected are based on SBRR.
For more information about what SBRR is, and how to implement it, teachers can read Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, while parents can refer to Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read.
The Guidance for the Reading First Program contains more technical details about SBRR.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 commits the nation to ensuring that every child in the country will learn to read by the end of third grade. As part of this legislation, Reading First has been authorized at more than $6 billion to apply scientifically based reading research to strengthen children’s reading skills from kindergarten through third grade.
States and districts have received federal Reading First grants based on high quality applications that met stringent review criteria. Complex and ambitious, these plans merit the highest level of committed support. To that end, the U.S. Department of Education has funded the National Center for Reading First Technical Assistance (NCRFTA) to provide comprehensive technical assistance to states and districts over the next five years.
The Center offers a national network of experts in topics critical to high quality, scientifically based reading instruction, including curriculum selection and implementation, professional development, and assessment. RMC Research Corporation, the national coordinator for the Reading First technical assistance center, oversees the activities of three regional centers that deliver technical assistance directly to their assigned states.
These regional centers are operated by organizations that have been at the forefront of scientifically based reading research, providing expertise on the improvement of reading instruction. They are the Florida Center for Reading Research (Florida State University, Tallahassee), the Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts (University of Texas at Austin), and the Center on Teaching and Learning (University of Oregon, Eugene).
Technical assistance is provided through a range of activities, including:
- National and regional conferences and seminars
- Training and professional development
- On-site, telephone, and e-mail consultations
- New products and materials
- Links to national reading experts
States and participating districts can receive:
- Training in scientifically based reading research and instruction
- Assistance in reviewing programs, materials, and assessments
- Training in using assessment data to improve student reading performance
- Other customized services to meet individual needs
- Critiques of Reading First sub-grant applications and scoring rubrics
National Coordinator: RMC Research Corporation
RMC Research Corporation has a national presence in the design and implementation of technical assistance systems that reach all levels of educational organizations. Technical assistance services have included: collaborating and consulting with federal program offices, assisting state education agencies in creating or expanding their capacity to implement and sustain critical programs, advising or training district and building level administrators in new leadership roles, and disseminating or demonstrating research-based, best practices for the classroom. Contact the National Center at RMC’s Portsmouth, New Hampshire office by calling 800-258-0802.
Reading First addresses a major need of American schoolchildren: providing high quality reading instruction that ensures students become proficient readers. According to the most recent data available from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 31% of all fourth graders are at or above the proficient level in reading. Among students eligible for free or reduced price lunches, only 15% are proficient readers (2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress).
Research shows that students who fall behind in reading in the earliest grades rarely make up this deficit, and have more difficulty with schoolwork in general. Because early success in reading prevents the need for later remediation and is critical to all aspects of learning, the Reading First program focuses on improving instruction for K – 3 students. Fortunately, there is a large and growing body of scientifically based research that shows what works in helping all students become proficient readers.
How it works
Reading First (RF) provides increased funding to states to implement scientifically based reading instruction and holds those states accountable for student achievement. States must apply to the Department of Education for funding. The Department distributes funds by formula, based on the number of children living below the poverty line in that state. State educational agencies (SEAs) then competitively subgrant funds to eligible districts to establish scientifically based reading programs in schools with the greatest need to improve student achievement. For an overview of the four main parts of the Reading First program, read below. For detailed information about implementing Reading First, see Guidance for the Reading First Program.
What it supports
During its first six years, Reading First will distribute approximately $6 billion to support scientifically based reading instruction. SEAs may reserve up to 20% of federal grants for statewide professional development and technical assistance. The remaining 80% must be competitively subgranted to eligible LEAs to implement scientifically based reading programs, including instructional materials, assessments, and professional development at the school level. Almost $3 billion in Reading First funds have already been awarded to states. Look here to see the Reading First award given to your state.
Reading First not only helps states and districts in implementing scientifically proven instruction, but the program also monitors the progress of students. Frequent assessments ensure that students are making adequate progress toward becoming proficient readers. States and districts must report this data each year and are held accountable for the results. Continued Reading First funding is tied to student outcomes and progress toward proficiency in reading. Follow these links to learn about exactly what the Reading First program supports.
Instructional Programs and Strategies
Scientifically based instructional content that explicitly and systematically addresses the five essential components of reading instruction.
Valid and Reliable Assessments
Rigorous measurements of students’ progress in the five essential components of reading instruction.
Increases student achievement by enabling teachers to effectively implement scientifically based reading instruction.
Clearly defined roles and responsibilities for school and district leaders to ensure effective implementation of a comprehensive reading program.
This website provides information about Reading First for teachers, principals, parents, state and local education officials, and anyone with an interest in improving reading instruction and increasing student achievement.
What is Reading First?
Reading First is the largest and most focused early reading initiative ever undertaken in this country. This program provides states, districts, and schools with funding to implement scientifically based reading instruction for students in grades K through 3.
Authorized as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, Reading First’s purpose is to ensure that every child reads at grade level or above by the end of third grade. To do this, the program focuses on what works, and supports the implementation of proven methods of early reading instruction. Reading First offers more funding than ever before for this critical educational priority and holds states and schools accountable for the progress of their students. Please follow our menu links to find out more about the program.
State Reading First Websites
Click the menu links to the official Reading First page for each state and the District of Columbia. If no Reading First page has been established, the link will take you to the state educational agency’s homepage instead.