Reading Recovery: A Failed Investment

Five from Five is now a community education project supported by MultiLit, a reading program developer and publisher.

Reading Recovery is an early intervention program for students in Year 1 who are having difficulty learning to read. It is widely used in Australia, the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, France and Denmark. It is endorsed by many leading educators and teacher professional organisations.

Yet numerous studies of Reading Recovery have provided no sound evidence that it has sustained positive effects on children’s reading achievement in the medium or long-term, despite its widespread use and high cost. A large Australian evaluation found that it had a negative impact in the medium term. 

A recent study in the UK which claimed to find a large long-term advantage of participation in Reading Recovery has since been revealed to have been a selective and incomplete analysis of the data.

The publication of misleading data is not an esoteric academic issue. Governments and schools have spent, and continue to spend, many millions on Reading Recovery, bolstered by research findings that purport to show a high level of effectiveness.

More importantly, there are large opportunity costs for the children with reading difficulties who do not receive the most effective instruction, with profound impacts on their educational achievement and wellbeing.