Reading Recovery in the Irish Context

Reading Recovery© is a school-based, short term, early literacy intervention. It is designed for children in senior infants and first class (aged between five years nine months and six years six months) identified as the lowest literacy achievers following one year at school. It is an evidence-based intervention that has been, and continues to be, thoroughly researched and is accredited by University College London (UCL).

Children are taught individually by a specially trained teacher for 30 minutes daily, for 12-20 weeks. This individually designed series of lessons is responsive to the strengths and needs of each child. Close observation informs skilled teacher decision-making. The goal is for children to become effective and efficient literacy learners able to work within an average range of classroom performance.

Copyright is held by Reading Recovery Europe at IOE UCL's Faculty of Education and Society

The Impact of Reading Recovery in Ireland

Reading Recovery teachers collect and submit data on each child they teach in order to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of the intervention. Data collected are collated at a school, regional, national and international level.

In Ireland, between 2017 and 2022, almost 7,000 pupils completed Reading Recovery. Over 83% (5,700 pupils approximately) made accelerated progress, ending their Reading Recovery lesson series working at or above class average.

Reading Recovery is highly rated by numerous independent organisations e.g. What Works Clearinghouse, the Early Intervention Foundation and the Education Endowment Foundation.

Reading Recovery Assessment Data (2021-2022)

A range of observational assessment tasks (An Observation of Early Literacy Achievement, 2019) which reflect the complex and multi-faceted nature of literacy development are used when identifying children for Reading Recovery. These standardised assessment tasks include:

  • Letter identification
  • Concepts about Print
  • Word Test
  • Writing Vocabulary
  • Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words
  • Running Records

The British Ability Scale (BAS 3) Word Reading Task is also used for those children selected for Reading Recovery.

Children selected for Reading Recovery are assessed post-intervention to determine how their performance on these tasks has changed over time. Data below provides an indication of the mean entry and exit scores of completed lesson series in 2021-2022. Please note: 'N=' refers to the number of items assessed on that task. 'SD' refers to the standard deviation.

Running Records are a comprehensive assessment of reading ability. The ability to interact successfully with a written story gives indications of how a child uses many strategies beyond decoding and what level of complexity in text reading is most beneficial for them to develop further.

The Writing Vocabulary task provides information about the writing ability of the child, such as:

  • How they approach the formation of letters and words
  • Strategies used to encode words
  • Writing fluency
  • Spelling awareness
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The Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (HRSiW) task gives information about the level of phonological and phonemic awareness the child has developed. The task provides an insights into:

  • What sounds the child is hearing in words
  • The sequence in they hear them
  • The sound-to-letter connections the child has developed
  • The child's awareness of orthography
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The Letter Identification task can inform the letters known, recurring confusions and the labels being used to identify them​.

The Concepts About Print task gives information about how the child is interacting with books and print.

The Word Test task not only gives information about what high frequency words the child recognises but provides an insight into what strategies are being used when the child attempts them.

The Daily Lesson

Reading Recovery lessons include a variety of opportunities to develop oral language, reading and writing capabilities. Learning activities and experiences encourage the child to work independently and actively engage in problem-solving.

A typical Reading Recovery lesson follows a structure which ensures a comprehensive and contextualised approach to developing the child’s literacy learning. Within this structure, the Reading Recovery teacher interacts with the child to provide a bespoke emphasis and focus on developing the specific skills and strategies being used and developed. As a result, every Reading Recovery lesson is contextualised and specific to the developing literacy learner.

Professional Development

Teachers use their knowledge of the child, their strengths, interests, prior learning and information from daily formative assessments to identify needs and make decisions about their learning. Teachers are supported by:

  • Knowledge of the curriculum (PLC)
  • Reading Recovery Standards and Guidelines and associated procedures
  • Regular and continual high quality professional development
  • Ongoing interrogation of literacy research
  • A wider support network of Reading Recovery teachers

Reading Recovery and Literacy Development

Reading Recovery recognises that engaging with literacy is a complex, problem solving, message-getting and message-creating activity. Successful readers use information from many sources to ensure that they elicit the message with accuracy, fluency and comprehension and enjoyment.

Reading Recovery approaches literacy development by harnessing the literacy experiences and knowledge the child comes to school with, building on their strengths.

Aspects of Early Literacy Development Supported in Reading Recovery

  • Comprehension
  • Writing development
  • Oral language
  • Motivation and enjoyment
  • Independence
  • Self regulation
  • Alphabetic Principle
  • Conventions of print
  • Phonological and Phonemic awareness
  • Fluency
  • Word Study

Click on the links below for further information about a number of these areas.

Benefits for the School

  • Emphasis on maintaining high expectations for all learners.
  • Early identification of children who are experiencing literacy difficulties after one year of school.
  • Reading Recovery aligns with the Primary Language Curriculum (PLC). Children are working towards the learning outcomes in the PLC before, during and after the Reading Recovery intervention.
  • Highly trained Reading Recovery Teachers can lead and coordinate effective early literacy practices within their school to improve learning outcomes for all.
  • Collated Reading Recovery data allows for early monitoring of literacy strengths and needs within the school and can assist with School Self-Evaluation and whole-school planning.


"The Reading Recovery Programme has been so beneficial to our school and as the Reading Recovery teacher, on a daily basis, I witness the effectiveness of the programme. As well as the literacy improvements and achievements made by the pupils on the Reading Recovery Programme, the confidence and self-belief these pupils gain throughout the programme is evidently visible as they navigate their way through school life. Class teachers have commented on the change in attitudes towards learning and the pupils’ belief in their own abilities following the Reading Recovery Programme. I feel very grateful that I have received the training and continue to receive CPD in order to develop my own skills and knowledge in this area."

Applications for Reading Recovery Professional Development Open in Term 2 of the School Year