Reading recovery program helps struggling first graders improve their literacy skills

The OU Reading Recovery Center received the Investing in Innovation (i3) federal grant, allowing education leaders to continue aiding first-graders who struggle with reading and writing. 

“We want to get in early and prevent literacy difficulties before they start,” Dr. Mary Lose, Associate Professor and Director of the Reading Recovery® Center of Michigan said. “Research shows that if children are low performing in literacy in grade one, they are very likely to remain low performing through grade four.”

The i3 grant gave Oakland $4,011,688 to spend throughout five years (2010-2015), according to the website oakland.edureadingrecovery. Oakland University is one of only 19 universities in the United States to offer a Reading Recovery University Training Center. 

“The grant will support the training of 3,700 Reading Recovery teachers nationally and 250 in Michigan,” Dr. Robert Schwartz, research consultant for Reaing Recovery Council of North America said. 

Schwartz helped develop the Reading Recovery Center at Oakland University in 1991. 

“We have over 20 years of data in the U.S. that show when we intervene early we can turn struggling non-readers into readers and writers,” Lose said. 


Evolution of reading recovery 

Although established in Michigan, in 1991, the Reading Recovery Center was initially founded in New Zealand by Dr. Marie M. Clay. In 1984 it came to the United States at Ohio State University. 

“It has continued to evolve over time to incorporate new insights related to early literacy learning and instruction and has spread across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia,” Schwartz said. 

Throughout Michigan there are 13 regional Reading Recovery sites each monitored by a  Reading Recovery teacher leader. It is their job to train teachers, and support their continued professional learning. Teachers are selected by the schools in which they work and the their training takes a full year. In previous years, each school has paid for the training, but the i3 federal grant has covered these initial training costs for schools. 

The program takes the bottom percentage of 1st graders learning to read and works with them for 12-20 weeks for 30 minutes each day. 


Statistics of recovery 

 “Seventy-five percent of these low performing children are able to reach grade level expectations,” Schwartz said. 

“The research evidence shows that Reading Recovery works and policy makers and schools can use this evidence to invest precious education funds on an intervention that helps children struggling with literacy,” Lose said. 

During the 2012-2013 school year, 2,170 students were taught by 261 trained teachers, according to the Reading Recovery Center executive summary. At the beginning of the fall semester, 44 percent of the first-graders in the program were, statistically, well behind average. After completion of the program, no first graders remained in that category. 

Initially, none of the first-graders were above average, however by the end of an estimated 15-20 weeks, according to the executive summary, 16 percent were.  

 “One in 11 Michigan first graders who need Reading Recovery are without the opportunity to receive the intervention, and I’d like this to change,” Lose said.  “After all, when we invest in early intervention, we invest in our young citizens and our collective future.”