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Reading for Understanding Research Initiative


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FY Awards


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Dr. Elizabeth Albro
(202) 245-8495


The Reading for Understanding Research Initiative (Reading for Understanding) was created to develop effective approaches for improving reading comprehension for all students. Reading for Understanding takes a comprehensive approach to tackling the problem of improving reading comprehension and includes (a) applied basic research to identify underlying processes that contribute to comprehension; (b) development and evaluation of instructional approaches, curricula, technology, and teacher professional development programs to improve reading comprehension for students in prekindergarten through Grade 12; and (c) development and validation of assessments of reading comprehension. In addition, IES created Reading for Understanding to change the way in which research on reading has been conducted by accelerating the research process and creating a tightly linked network of researchers. Central to the success of the initiative is the full participation of teachers and other school-based personnel in the design and interpretation of the research studies and interventions.

Six teams were selected through a competitive, scientific review process to participate in the Reading for Understanding Network. Five of the teams focus on increasing understanding of basic processes that contribute to reading comprehension and developing and evaluating instructional approaches, curricula, technology, and professional development for enhancing reading comprehension. The five teams address a broad range of research questions and engage in a variety of research strategies including experimental, observational, and longitudinal studies. The sixth team developed assessments designed to measure the developmental trajectories of reading comprehension skills. Altogether, the six teams include over 130 researchers representing linguistics, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, reading, speech and language pathology, assessment, and evaluation.

A 2020 IES-funded synthesis of the more than 200 scholarly articles produced by the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative highlights three key findings. They include: (a) the importance of emphasizing comprehension in pursuit of knowledge and insight; (b) redoubling our efforts to enhance language development, both oral and written, for students across the age-span; and (c) changing the culture of classrooms to emphasize collaboration, deep comprehension, critique, and the generative use of comprehension.

Grade Levels:

A quick overview of work of the Reading for Understanding is available here.

The Request for Applications for the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative is posted online at:

IES also funds research on reading through the National Center for Education Research's Reading and Writing program and The National Center for Special Education Research's Reading, Writing, and Language Development program.