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  • Writer's pictureM. Kovack

And the Research Says...National Inquiries

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

We currently have so much cognitive and neurobiological science research about learning to read in English, we scarcely need more. According to Dr. Mark Seidenberg, "[t]here is a profound disconnection between the science of reading and educational practice" (Seidenberg, 2017, p. 8). What we need is for this research to be placed in the hands of educators, families, students, and administrators to figure out how to put it into practice.

The following are reports from huge national inquires about the teaching of reading.

1) The National Reading Panel (2000). This is a meta-analysis from the US that screened more than 100 000 studies (pre-2000) to locate and summarize findings from the relatively few studies that were generalizable, effective, and of high quality. The criticisms of this report have been widespread, but is worth noting that meta-analyses are the highest form of reliable research we have and so many studies pointed to the same conclusions. We have learned a lot since 2000, (as some of the criticisms had some validity), however this still stands as a reliable source of information about the basics involved in the teaching of reading.

Click Here for the Report of the Subgroups. I was so excited when this came out. I ordered a copy of it right away and read through each article, highlighting along the way. So much of what was in here was the exact same research I had found when traveling to OISE at the University of Toronto to snoop through the research on my days off. It all made sense to me because the activities I had created using this research were working so much better than what I had been taught.

Click Here for an easy-read Summary. I was also excited when the first edition of this came out. I ordered so many hard copies that they were delivered to me on my little subdivision street by a huge transport truck. They filled my garage. ;)

Twenty years later, I wonder how many teachers have a copy of this, or have had the opportunity to read it and explore their practices using this knowledge.

2) The National Early Literacy Panel (2008). This is another meta-analysis. Same as above. Lots of criticism, and relatively hidden from most teachers, families, and students. While these findings are not all that matter when it comes to early literacy, they gives us a solid knowledge base to work from when designing effective programming for children. In the end, this is a "Scientific Synthesis of Early Literacy Development and Implications for Intervention" (NIL & NCFL, 2008).

Click Here for the Summary.

3) The Rose Report (2006). This is a report from the UK Department of Education and Skills by an independent consultant to examine findings from research in consultation with teachers, trainers, resource providers and policy makers. Like the above bodies of research, it was found that "success in the teaching of beginner readers are: a well trained teaching force; well designed, systematic programmes of work that are implemented thoroughly; incisive assessment of teaching and learning, and strong, supportive leadership (p. 2).

Click Here for the report. The summary at the beginning is an easy read.

4) The Rowe Report (2005). Again, this time from Australia, this national inquiry had the same findings. "The evidence is clear, whether from research, good practice observed in schools, advice from submissions to the Inquiry, consultations, or from Committee members’ own individual experiences, that direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read. Findings from the research evidence indicate that all students learn best when teachers adopt an integrated approach to reading that explicitly teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary knowledge and comprehension. This approach, coupled with effective support from the child’s home, is critical to success" (p. 11 of the Executive Summary).

Click Here for the Report (Executive Summary is in a pdf is in fine print at the bottom of this link under Additional Files).


National Center for Family Literacy (U.S.), & National Early Literacy Panel (U.S.). (2008).

Developing early literacy: Report of the national early literacy panel. Washington, D.C.: National Institute for Literacy.

National Reading Panel (U.S.), & National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U.S.). (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction: Reports of the subgroups. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.

Rose, J. (2005). Independent review of the teaching of early reading: Interim report. Department for education and skills.

Rowe, K. (2005). Australia’s national inquiry into the teaching of literacy. Melbourne: ACER.

Seidenberg, M. (2017). Language at the Speed of Sight: How we Read, Why so Many Can't, and What can be Done About it. New York: Basic Books.

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