Some Principles from the Reading Research

These findings of the National Reading Panel offer a wealth of detailed information on strategies that have proven to work in reading instruction.

The Partnership for Reading encourages educators and parents to go deeper into the research to discover what really works and to learn how to activate those concepts in the classroom and at home. Here are some of the fundamental findings of the NRP:

  • Certain instructional methods are more effective than others. Many of the more effective methods are ready for implementation in the classroom.
  • To teach reading well, teachers must use a combination of strategies, incorporated in a coherent plan with specific goals. A teacher who addresses only one area of reading or uses one instructional approach will probably not be successful.
  • To become good readers, children must develop phonemic awareness (an understanding of the sounds that make up spoken language), phonics skills (an understanding of the sounds that letters and letter combinations make), the ability to read fluently and accurately, and the ability to comprehend what is read.
  • Systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness directly causes improvement in children's reading and spelling skills.
  • Systematic and explicit phonics instruction produces significant benefits for children from kindergarten through sixth grade and for children having difficulty learning to read. Effective phonics instruction involves teaching a sequence of phonics elements, not just highlighting elements as they appear in a text.
  • Guided repeated oral reading is important to developing reading fluency – the ability to read with efficiency and ease. Guided repeated oral reading helps students recognize new words and understand what they read.
  • The research is not conclusive on whether reading silently helps to improve reading fluency. It is not yet clear whether independent silent reading by itself improves reading skills or whether good readers simply like to read silently more than poor readers. Therefore, reading silently should be combined with other types of reading instruction.
  • Vocabulary should be taught both directly (apart from a narrative or text) and indirectly (as words are encountered in a text). Repetition and multiple exposures to words contribute to the understanding of word meaning.
  • Reading comprehension – understanding what is read – is best supported when teachers use a variety of techniques and systematic strategies to assist in recall of information, question generation, and summarizing of information.
  • Teachers must be provided with appropriate and intensive training to ensure that they know when and how to teach specific strategies. Teachers must know how children learn to read, why some children have difficulty reading, and how to identify and implement instructional strategies for different children.
  • Computer technology can contribute to the improvement of reading instruction. Early indications from the research suggest that additional studies and further analysis are necessary to determine the specific, proven contributions computer technology can make in this area.
Reprinted with permission from The Partnership for Reading (


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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase