February 27, 2018

This is the final entry in the Education Leader’s Guide to Reading Growth, a 7-part series about the things education leaders need to know about reading—and the steps they need to take.

Struggling readers. Reading time. ZPD. Text variety. Effort. Comprehension. Motivation. Relations with science and math. Over the last several posts, this series looked at reading practice and reading growth from a lot of different angles. What we haven’t yet looked at, though, are the resources education leaders need in order to turn these concepts into reality and the top action steps that will support high-quality reading practice in their schools and districts.


In order to implement a reading practice strategy that accelerates reading growth, educators need two key resources: a reliable assessment and a high-quality reading practice program.

Reading Assessment

A solid assessment will provide the reliable, valid data and rich insights you need for an effective reading practice strategy. At a minimum, your reading assessment should:

  • Accurately identify the reading level of each student.
  • Indicate whether a student’s reading level is at, above, or below benchmark.
  • Provide reports that allow you to track reading achievement (gains) over time.
  • Be administered at least three times per year (beginning, middle, and end).

For the most impactful reading practice strategy, an ideal reading assessment will:

  • Accurately identify both a student’s reading level and their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).
  • Allow you to compare student scores against multiple benchmarks (such as state, district, or school benchmarks).
  • Identify which reading skills a student has mastered and which ones they are ready to learn next via an empirically validated learning progression (which should be aligned to your state standards).
  • Measure a student’s reading growth, in addition to their reading achievement.
  • Cover all grades (pre-K–12), using a consistent scoring scale so that you can track a student’s reading progress over their entire academic career.
  • Provide interactive reports that track student progress throughout the school year and from year to year.
  • Forecast future achievement and skills mastery.
  • Allow for flexible and easy administration, so educators can assess students as frequently as needed.
  • Integrate and share data with your selected reading practice program.

Reading Practice Program

There’s much more to effective reading practice than setting a student in front of a book and telling them to read. A good reading practice program will help ensure students are engaging in the type of practice that fuels growth. At minimum, it should:

  • Provide a method to track student reading time.
  • Help students find texts that are within their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).
  • Measure a student’s literal comprehension of the texts they have read.
  • Include a personalized goal-setting feature.

A robust, research-based reading practice program will be much more than just an “add-on” to your overall reading strategy; it will serve as a core resource that supports both educators and students on a daily basis. An ideal reading practice program will:

  • Provide reports that allow both educators and students to visually track reading time as well as monitor other key reading factors (such as literal comprehension) on a daily basis.
  • Allow students to choose the titles they want to read, rather than assigning only teacher-selected titles or limiting students to only a narrow band of text complexity.
  • Offer students personalized recommendations and encourage them to discover new fiction and nonfiction titles that are age-appropriate, matched to their individual interests, and within their ZPD.
  • Increase students’ access to a diverse range of fiction and nonfiction reading materials with a special emphasis on books, but also including shorter works such as news articles.
  • Include thousands of literal comprehension quizzes for a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction titles at all different reading levels and maturity/interest levels.
  • Automatically score literal comprehension quizzes and make it easy for educators to monitor the average literal comprehension level of each student.
  • Help educators set specific personalized goals around average text complexity level (according to a child’s ZPD), daily engaged reading time, and average literal comprehension scores.
  • Show each student their personalized goals as well as their progress toward those goals. 
  • Have a parent/guardian portal or other platform that empowers family members to view their child’s most recent activity, monitor their progress, and support at-home reading practice.
  • Integrate and share data with your selected reading assessment.

Action Steps

Entire books could be—and have been—written about the steps needed to implement a successful reading strategy. The reality is that there is no one recipe or magic formula that will work for every student in every school in every district. However, there are key steps that we recommend all education leaders take to support high-quality reading practice, reading growth, and student success.

  • Ensure your selected reading assessment and reading practice program are implemented with fidelity. Initial and ongoing professional development for educators using these resources is highly recommended to ensure best-practice usage.
  • Reserve at least 15 minutes of every school day for independent reading practice at all grade levels—especially middle and high school.
  • Make sure students have equitable access to texts that they can read at home and on the go. For digital materials, make sure students have devices and Internet access outside of school so they can read eBooks outside of school hours. For print materials, students should be able check out books from school or class libraries for extended periods. 
  • Turn reading into a core part of your district and school culture. Fill classrooms and hallways with words, book posters, and more. Encourage all educators and staff—not just language arts teachers—to talk about what they’re reading, ask kids what they’re reading, be seen reading, and share their favorite reads.
  • Engage parents, guardians, and families. Make it easy for them to support their child’s reading practice by supplying them with suggested texts to read and discuss at home, equipping them with information about what factors contribute to high-quality reading practice, and sharing the personalized reading goals you’ve set for their children.
  • Stay curious. There are always new discoveries being made, new research being published, and new insights being shared. Make it a habit to read blogs, magazines, or journals that keep you up to date with the latest reading news. Subscribe to your favorites!

Although this is the last entry in the Education Leader’s Guide to Reading Growth, the learning is far from over! A new blog series is already in the works, so check back frequently or subscribe to the Renaissance newsletter for the latest updates.

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