What is Reading Recovery?

Reading recovery is an intervention system aimed at first graders who are struggling with reading and writing. The one-to-one system aims to reduce the number of children with literacy difficulties whilst lowering the costs of helping these individuals. By dealing with the problem at an early age it hopes to offset any problems in later development.

Low achieving first grade pupils receive a half hour lesson with a Reading Recovery tutor who is specially trained to help them every day for 12-2o weeks, depending on how quickly the child improves. Once they are able to read and write to an adequate level, they complete their course of lessons and return to regular literacy lessons. This prepares the student for lessons at their grade level alongside their classmates; being at the same level as their peers at an early age will help prevent them falling behind and having to redo a year later in their education.

The system has proved effective: three quarters of pupils who have had the lessons go on to achieve the expectations of the grade level. Generally they continue to progress without any problems throughout their education - this is evidence that early intervention is most effective.

If a student fails to meet the required level even after completing twenty weeks of lessons, they can undergo further assessments that will evaluate what future support they should receive. This is a positive outcome as the child has been identified as needing extra help, so they will get the support they require.

A typical lesson may consist of the child reading two or three short books, including a rereading of a previously read book. Letters can be used to help children recognize individual figures. Children also write their own words and stories. The lessons will always develop from the previous lesson's progress at a rate suitable for the child.

The Reading Recovery tutors are specially trained to meet the needs of low achieving young children. They make what are known as 'moment-to-moment' decisions about each child's educational needs. To make these decisions effectively the tutor most complete a year of specialist training focusing on moment-to-moment responses.

Some educators criticize the system, claiming it leaves too many children behind whilst focusing intensively on only some pupils. They think the system should be reformed so it takes less time for a child to be brought up to grade level. Standard assessments should be used to evaluate the effects of the scheme more fully.

Whilst the system is very rigorous, it does improve the literacy levels of most underachieving young children and so is in that way very successful. Reading recovery remedies problems at a very early stage in a person's education, which prevents them from lagging behind for their entire school life. However the system could be improved by including more children in the scheme, as well as taking action to reduce the amount of time it takes to produce enough improvement.