Early Reading First

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The following information represents a small sample of the scientifically based research and resources available that support the Early Reading First goals. The information is not exhaustive, and the Department will add other relevant research and resources in the future.

These resources are provided for the reader’s convenience, and are intended merely to be examples of resources that may be useful in the administration of an Early Reading First grant. There are many other relevant resources that may be helpful as well, and any mentioned here are just a few of the options available on the subjects relevant to Early Reading First implementation. Their inclusion does not reflect their relative importance nor is it intended as an endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) of any products, author, publisher, supplier, services, or views that are mentioned. In addition, their inclusion is not intended to mandate, direct, or control the grantee's specific instructional content, academic achievement system and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction.


Fact Sheet

  • Early Reading First Fact Sheet download files MS WORD (90K) (March 2009)


The U.S. Department of Education makes certain types of records, created by the agency on or after November 1, 1996, available electronically on the Internet. The Department website provides ready access to a rich variety of information immediately-without a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Items for which multiple FOIA requests have been (or are likely to be) received can be found in the Department's FOIA e-Reading Room. Copies of recently funded ERF applications are available in the Department’s FOIA e-Reading Room: http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/foia/oeseroom.html


Doing What Works

Doing What Works is a website dedicated to assisting teachers in the implementation of effective educational practices. The Doing What Works website contains practice guides developed by the Department’s Institute of Education Sciences that evaluate research on the effectiveness of teaching practices described in the guides. The website also contains examples of possible ways this research may be used, but not necessarily the only ways to implement these teaching practices. The examples provided on the Doing What Works website – including any product names included in materials from schools – should not be construed as an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any products, programs, or curricula. For additional information please visit http://dww.ed.gov.

Expanding the Reach

Expanding the Reach (ETR) is a professional development program designed to improve the reading practices of K-3 teachers in Title I low-performing schools; schools that have failed to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind. A pilot project that utilizes an innovative professional development delivery model, ETR offers a customized blend of teacher training and technical assistance services in scientifically based reading research (SBRR) to district and school staff operating schools that have not received Reading First funding. In 2004, the project was piloted in 19 schools in the states of Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Washington. In 2008, the project has been expanded to include three additional states: Arkansas, Arizona, and New York.

Three nationally-acclaimed scholars and SBRR experts oversee the selection and organization of the reading content and provide timely professional development to participating schools and districts. They are: Dr. Anne Cunningham, Dr. Timothy Shanahan, and Dr. Dorothy Strickland. DTI Associates, Inc.- A Kratos Company directs the national ETR leadership team, in partnership with the National Center for Family Literacy and its cadre of technical assistance specialists providing the technical assistance, and The Westchester Institute conducting the external evaluation. A Senior Reading Specialist, DTI’s Stephanie Hamilton supervises six Technical Assistance Specialists who provide direct on-site technical assistance to all participating schools. The team has extensive experience in the implementation of No Child Left Behind programs, in general, and SBRR practices, in particular at the national, state, and local levels. http://etr.haverstick.biz/projectoverview.aspx

Reading First

Through Reading First, states and districts receive support to apply scientifically based reading research—and the proven instructional and assessment tools consistent with this research—to ensure that all children learn to read well by the end of third grade. The program provides formula grants to states that submit an approved application. SEAs award subgrants to eligible LEAs on a competitive basis. SEAs fund those proposals that show the most promise for raising student achievement and for successful implementation of reading instruction, particularly at the classroom level. Only programs that are founded on scientifically based reading research are eligible for funding through Reading First. Funds are allocated to states according to the proportion of children age 5 to 17 who reside within the state and who are from families with incomes below the poverty line. The Department is authorized to reserve 0.5 percent of Reading First funds for awards to the outlying areas (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and 0.5 percent to be awarded to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Department also is authorized to reserve up to 2.5 percent for national activities and program evaluation and $5 million for information dissemination activities. http://www.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/index.html


The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/) offers a range of publications that evaluate research on early childhood education interventions designed for use with 3- to 5-year-old children. These products and strategies aim to develop competencies associated with school readiness, including language, literacy, math, and cognition WWC has reviewed topics focusing on early childhood education (ECE) interventions (curricula and practices, as defined below) designed for use in center-based settings with 3- to 5-year-old children who are not yet in kindergarten or children who are in preschool, with a primary focus on cognitive and language competencies associated with school readiness (language, literacy, math, and cognition). The list of all Early Childhood Intervention Reports is available at http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/reports/topic.aspx?tid=13


National Early Literacy Panel

In January 2009, the National Institute for Literacy released findings from the much-anticipated report, Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel, A Scientific Synthesis of Early Literacy Development and Implications for Intervention. The National Early Literacy Panel's (NELP) report serves as the basis of several powerful, research-based recommendations to the early childhood community – educators, caregivers, Head Start providers, and parents – on promoting the foundational skills of life-long literacy. In 2002, the National Institute for Literacy convened the nine-member National Early Literacy Panel in consultation with The National Center for Family Literacy. The effort was also supported by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Developing Early Literacy bridges a large gap in the early-literacy research knowledge base. By synthesizing research on language, literacy, and communication, the report clearly identifies which critical early skills or abilities and proven instructional practices are precursors of later literacy achievement. It provides important clues and insights into emergent literacy from birth through age 5 and points the way for future literacy research and scientific inquiry. http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications/pdf/NELPReport09.pdf


The No Child Left Behind Act mandated an independent national evaluation of the ERF program and required a final report to Congress. The final evaluation report was released in May 2007. The evaluation was coordinated by the Department’s Institute of Education Sciences and it assessed the impact of the program on children’s literacy skills as well as the instructional content and practices in preschool classrooms. Using a quasi-experimental design, the study found that the program had a positive impact on children's print and letter knowledge, but not on phonological awareness or oral language. The evaluation also found that the program had positive impacts on aspects of the classroom environment and teacher practices that are intended to support the development of language and literacy skills. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20074007/index.asp


The National Reading Panel (NRP) reviewed more than 100,000 studies on reading and identified five components essential to a child's ability to learn to read: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. NRP's findings and their analysis and discussion of these five areas of reading instruction are published in Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read. Additional information is available on the NRP's publications page.



Adams, M.J., Foorman, B.R., Lundberg, I., & Beeler, T. (1998). Phonemic Awareness in Young Children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

This book addresses the "research to practice" issue in phonemic awareness and includes activities that stimulate the development of "phonemic awareness" in early education programs. While MOST teachers are familiar with the term "phonemic awareness" and its importance in the process of acquiring literacy, but knowing how to teach and support "phonemic awareness" learning has been a challenge for many. The authors intend to close the gap between the research findings and classroom instruction by providing a developmental curriculum in "phonemic awareness" based upon validated classroom research that originated in Sweden and Denmark, and was then adapted and researched in classrooms in the United States.

Apel, K., & Masterson, J. (2001). Beyond Baby Talk: From Sounds to Sentences - A Parent's Guide to Language Development. California: Prima Publishing.

Sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, this book describes how children develop language from their earliest words to sentences. With the understanding that parents are the primary language role models for their children, the authors provide parents with a guide to understanding language development as well as ways in which they can interact with their children to promote language development.

Burns, M.S., Griffin, P., & Snow, C.E. (Eds.). (1999). Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children's Reading Success. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

This book is edited by members of the Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children. It is intended for parents, teachers, policymakers, and community members. The book addresses the following central questions:

  • What kinds of language and literacy experiences should be part of all preschool and childcare settings?

  • What should reading instruction look like in kindergarten and the early grades?

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Last Modified: 07/08/2009