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March 2020

Ask A REL Question:

What are the best research-based guided reading programs/resources?


Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk regarding the research on guided reading programs and resources. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your question. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. The references are selected from the most commonly used research resources and may not be comprehensive. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Other relevant studies may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

  1. Delacruz, S. (2014). Using Nearpod in elementary guided reading groups. TechTrends, 58(5), 62-69.
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    From the abstract: “A student teacher placed at a school with a high English Language Learner population used mini iPads, and an application called Nearpod, during guided reading instruction. Groups of students in a fourth grade classroom used this application. The students and the teacher were interviewed to determine the benefits and challenges of this approach. An analysis of data revealed that all of the students found this type of guided reading to be beneficial and motivating in learning the content presented through the application. Students also explained how they could transfer the knowledge gained into their independent work. The teacher discussed how its improved organization in a guided reading group, but how careful consideration and planning must be done to ensure the technology will work properly during guided reading. It is recommended that the Nearpod application be used in guided reading lessons because of its user-friendliness, ability to engage students, and monitor their progress.”
  2. Erickson, J. D. (2019). Primary readers’ perceptions of a camp guided reading intervention: A qualitative case study of motivation and engagement. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 35(4), 354-373.
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    From the abstract: “Reading motivation declines across elementary school. Although a substantive body of empirical work exists specific to the reading motivation of older children, researchers have paid less attention to younger readers. Given that children's perceptions of school experiences shape motivation, and motivation impacts achievement, it is imperative that experts address this gap. This qualitative case study probed 3 primary-age boys' perceptions of the benefits and costs associated with involvement in a school-sponsored camp guided reading intervention. I considered students' perceptions alongside adult reports of behavioral engagement to infer how the intervention influenced each camper's developing reading motivation. Despite sharing perceived benefits of involvement in the intervention, 2 boys indicated that the cost of boredom due to teacher-selected texts would heavily influence their future decisions to participate in similar activities. Findings suggest that educators and researchers should sincerely consider students' perceived benefits and costs of program involvement when designing and modifying reading interventions.”
  3. Foorman, B., Beyler, N., Borradaile, K., Coyne, M., Denton, C. A., Dimino, J., ... & Keating, B. (2016). Foundational skills to support reading for understanding in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Educator's Practice Guide. NCEE 2016-4008. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, What Works Clearinghouse.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “The goal of this practice guide is to offer educators specific, evidence-based recommendations for teaching foundational reading skills to students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. This guide is a companion to the existing practice guide, "Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade", and as a set, these guides offer recommendations for preparing students to be successful readers. Both guides recommend some practices that can and should be implemented beginning in kindergarten, and both guides also suggest some instructional practices that can be implemented after students have mastered early reading skills. This guide synthesizes the best available research on foundational reading skills and shares practices that are supported by evidence. It is intended to be practical and easy for teachers to use. The guide includes many examples in each recommendation to demonstrate the concepts discussed. This guide provides teachers, reading coaches, principals, and other educators with instructional recommendations that can be implemented in conjunction with existing standards or curricula and does not recommend a particular curriculum. Teachers can use the guide when planning instruction to support the development of foundational reading skills among students in grades K-3 and in diverse contexts. Professional-development providers, program developers, and researchers can also use this guide. Professional-development providers can use the guide to implement evidence-based instruction and align instruction with state standards or to prompt teacher discussion in professional learning communities. Program developers can use the guide to create more effective early-reading curricula and interventions. Finally, researchers may find opportunities to test the effectiveness of various approaches to foundational reading education and explore gaps or variations in the reading-instruction literature.”
  4. Gaffner, J., Johnson, K., Torres-Elias, A., & Dryden, L. (2014). Guided reading in first- fourth grade: Theory to practice. Texas Journal of Literacy Education, 2(2), 117-126.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of collaborative efforts between a large metropolitan school district and the school of education at an area urban university. A reading clinic, in which university students conducted small guided reading group lessons with elementary students reading below grade level, was established through this partnership. Analysis of qualitative and quantitative data revealed the positive outcomes were twofold. Elementary students participating in the reading clinic achieved progress on two different reading assessments, and university students benefited from the training provided by the district literacy specialists, guidance by the university professors, and the real-world application of best practices in guided reading instruction.”
  5. Kosanovich, M. & Foorman, B. (2016). Professional Learning Communities Participant's Activities for the What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guide: Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. REL 2016-277a. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast.
    Retrieved from
    From the abstract: “The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southeast developed a Professional Learning Community (PLC) Facilitators Guide to support educators in the implementation of recommendations from the What Works Clearinghouse's. The practice guide focuses on the foundational reading skills that enable students to read words, relate those words to their oral language, and read connected text with sufficient accuracy and fluency to understand what they read. The practice guide, developed by a panel of experts comprised of researchers and practitioners, presents four recommendations that educators can use to improve literacy skills in the early grades. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are a form of professional development in which small groups of educators with shared interests work together with the goals of expanding their knowledge and improving their craft. REL Southeast developed PLC materials focused on the practice guide that were designed to assist a literacy leader in guiding a professional learning community in applying the recommendations from the practice guide. The materials include a facilitator's guide, participant activities, and YouTube videos. The facilitator's guide includes a framework for facilitators to conduct each of the ten PLC sessions. It also includes participant activities, discussion questions, small- and whole-group activities, and implementation and reflection activities. The participant's activities include reflection questions, lesson plan examples and templates, video-viewing guides, and sharing opportunities.”
  6. Lipp, J. R., & Helfrich, S. R. (2016). Key Reading Recovery strategies to support classroom guided reading instruction. The Reading Teacher, 69(6), 639-646.
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    From the abstract: “Effective teachers are continuously striving to improve their instruction. Reading Recovery teachers have detailed and specific literacy training and expertise that can be of great value to classroom teachers, especially in the area of guided reading instruction. This article explores the ways in which key Reading Recovery strategies can be interwoven into primary classroom guided reading instruction to support acceleration. Fluency, supportive book introductions, prompting, and observation and analysis are emphasized throughout.”
  7. Marchand-Martella, N. E., Martella, R. C., & Lambert, M. C. (2015). Targeted management tips to enhance the effectiveness of Tier 2, guided reading instruction. Intervention in School and Clinic, 50(3), 169-172.
    Retrieved from:
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    From the abstract: “Guided reading is a popular approach to teaching reading in today’s schools. With the increase of schools and districts implementing response-to-intervention programs, guided reading can be easily enhanced to provide additional supports for students at risk for school failure who exhibit learning and behavioral challenges. This column offers teachers targeted behavior management tips to use before, during, and after more-focused Tier 2 guided reading instruction.”
  8. McDaniel, S. C., McLeod, R., Carter, C. L., & Robinson, C. (2017). Supplemental summer literacy instruction: Implications for preventing summer reading loss. Reading Psychology, 38(7), 673-686.
    Retrieved from:
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    From the abstract: “Summer reading loss is a prevalent problem that occurs primarily for students who are not exposed to or encouraged to read at home or in summer programs when school is out. This problem prevails among early readers from low-income backgrounds. This study provided 31 six and seven-year-old children with a structured guided reading program through an existing community summer program (e.g., YMCA). Specifically, camp counselors were trained to deliver scripted guided reading instruction daily in ability groups consistent with student age. Researchers were able to establish the need for reading instruction to, at minimum, prevent summer reading loss by administering the Informal Reading Inventory (IRI) prior to intervention. Further, weekly oral reading fluency assessments were completed for all participants throughout the 9-week reading program. Results suggest that both six and seven-year-old children performed consistently across the summer program, without any summer reading loss measured. The implications for practitioners and researchers from this simple, efficient summer reading program are discussed.”
  9. Shore, J., Sabatini, J., Lentini, J., Holtzman, S., & McNeil, A. (2015). Development of an evidence-based reading fluency program for adult literacy learners. Reading Psychology, 36(1), 86-104.
    Retrieved from:
    Full text available at
    From the abstract: “Fluency is an essential part of skilled reading that has only recently begun to receive its deserved attention. However, programs that meaningfully engage adult learners in fluency training have not been widely explored in research. In this article, the authors describe an evidence-based adult Guided Repeated Reading program developed for low-literate adult learners (reading at the seventh-grade equivalent or below). Lessons incorporated teacher-guided, choral, paired, and other repeated readings of these texts, supplemented by lessons that build on prior knowledge, embedded phonics and vocabulary, comprehension, and reading strategy support. The program has been implemented in a national efficacy study of reading in adults. Outcomes and future implications of the implementation are discussed.”
  10. What Works Clearinghouse. (2016). Accelerated Reader™ (Beginning Reading). WWC Intervention Report Updated. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, What Works Clearinghouse.
    Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “Accelerated Reader™ is a computerized supplementary reading program that provides guided reading instruction to students in grades K-12. It aims to improve students' reading skills through reading practice and by providing frequent feedback on students' progress to teachers. The Accelerated Reader™ program requires students to select and read a book based on their area of interest and reading level. Upon completion of a book, students take a computerized quiz based on the book's content and vocabulary. Quiz performance allows teachers to monitor student progress and to identify students who may need additional reading assistance. This review of the program for the Beginning Reading topic area focuses on studies that examine outcomes for beginning readers in grades K-3.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

  • Literacy Research Association:
    From the website: “The Literacy Research Association is a non-profit professional organization, comprised of individuals who share an interest in advancing literacy theory, research, and practice. We are a community that engages in research and dialogue pertaining to literacy and related topics. We support the professional development of emerging and established scholars. We advocate research-informed improvements in education. We seek engagement with high-quality research and discussions of important theoretical, methodological, practice and policy issues.”
  • National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE):
    From the website: “Through collaboration and community, shared stories and shared experiences, NCTE supports teachers and their students in classrooms, on college campuses, and in online learning environments. For more than 100 years, NCTE has worked with its members to offer journals, publications, and resources; to further the voice and expertise of educators as advocates for their students at the local and federal levels; and to share lesson ideas, research, and teaching strategies through its Annual Convention and other professional learning events.”
  • What Works Clearinghouse:,Literacy
    From the website: “The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviews the existing research on different programs, products, practices, and policies in education. Our goal is to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions. We focus on the results from high-quality research to answer the question “What works in education?”


Search Strings. Guided reading programs OR guided reading curriculum OR leveled reading programs OR literacy guided reading OR guided reading evaluation OR guided reading program student outcomes OR effective literacy program OR effectiveness guided reading OR impact leveled reading

Searched Databases and Resources.

  • ERIC
  • Academic Databases (e.g., EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, ProQuest, Google Scholar)
  • Commercial search engines (e.g., Google)
  • Institute of Education Sciences Resources

Reference Search and Selection Criteria. The following factors are considered when selecting references:

  • Date of Publication: Priority is given to references published in the past 10 years.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: ERIC, other academic databases, Institute of Education Sciences Resources, and other resources including general internet searches
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study types, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, as well as to correlational designs, descriptive analyses, mixed methods and literature reviews. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality.

REL Mid-Atlantic serves the education needs of Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

This Ask A REL was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0006 by Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic administered by Mathematica Policy Research. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.