Research-Based Reading Programs: Definition & Implementation

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Implementing a reading program can be daunting, complicated task. This lesson reviews research-based reading programs, which provide teachers with a manual for providing successful reading programs designed for all ages.

Curriculum Supported by Research

How do you learn a new skill? If you wanted to build a shed or cook a new recipe, you would probably do research to find out what methods work best for your project and follow proven instructions. In this way, you would have the best chance of positive results with your project. Otherwise, your chances of success may suffer.

Likewise, teachers use reading programs that have been tested in empirical research and shown to be effective in a multitude of student scenarios (from initial readers to those that have reading difficulties). These programs are referred to as research-based reading programs. Just like with the recipe you follow to cook, following a research-based reading program offers a greater chance of success with any given student due to the empirical evidence demonstrating the program's effectiveness.

Research shows that good reading programs blend components of both spoken and written language together, resulting in a holistic approach to learning to read.

Components of Research-Based Reading Programs

Oral, or spoken language, is an important component of all research-based reading programs. Students learning in a research-based reading program will have opportunities to broaden their understanding of spoken language through the use of songs, games, chants, and other verbal activities. Activities allowing students to listen to books read aloud and investigate parts of spoken speech (like pronunciation and phonemes) are also components of these reading programs. It is important to relate spoken language to written language to order to help students connect what we say to what we read.

Vast exposure to different types of printed language is also a component of research-based reading programs. This occurs through the use of posters, calendars or signs (or any types of printed material). Teachers should also focus on the mechanics, such as directionality and phonemic awareness.

After learning the relationship between written and spoken letters, sounds, and words, students using a research-based reading program will be given the opportunity to investigate decoding strategies and practice these strategies through their own oral reading.

Additionally, research-based reading programs emphasize critical thinking while reading, vocabulary enhancement, and exposure to a variety of types of written and spoken language samples (such as informational texts, fantasy stories, and current event documents).

The preceding concepts can be summed up in the 12 components of research-based reading programs:

  1. Broaden use of oral language
  2. Broaden use of written language
  3. Hear both fictional and non-fiction work read aloud daily
  4. Explore and understand the building blocks of spoken language
  5. Explore and understand the building blocks of written language
  6. Understand the relationship between spoken and written language
  7. Learn decoding strategies
  8. Use own writing to work on spelling and reading
  9. Work toward accurate and fluent reading
  10. Access to variety of texts
  11. Enhance vocabulary
  12. Improve and enhance comprehension through practicing strategies and critical thinking


Implementation of reading programs can be different depending on the age of the students. Proper implementation depends on student needs.

All implementation scenarios have four steps:

  1. Exploration- A team of individuals review possible programs and make selection decisions.
  2. Installation- Materials for the selected program are purchased, schedules are determined and raters are chosen for the implementation stage of the program. It is recommended that all materials required for a chosen reading program be on-hand prior to an attempt to implement the program.
  3. Initial Implementation- Teachers are trained in the reading program requirements and encouraged to collaborate in a supportive team with each other. This step requires continued student progress assessment to determine the program's effectiveness with the target audience.
  4. Full Implementation -All teachers required to teach the program should be certified through training in the program and formative assessment is required to assess student progress.

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