The Incredible Journey to Reading

Early readers—those between age 3 and grade 3—embark on a fun and also challenging adventure toward becoming skilled and seasoned readers. They are continually moving toward new milestones in verbal communication, vocabulary acquisition, listening comprehension, and, as they progress toward third grade, learning each component of our sound-based system of reading.

A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that 88 percent of students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in third grade. Students who were not reading proficiently by the end of third grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.

Transitioning from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”

Often, we consider third grade a transition year from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” but in reality, this is a more gradual process that happens over time and varies for each student. Learning to read is what children are doing as they master the mechanics of reading. Reading to learn is what learners are doing after they’ve mastered the mechanics, when the learner’s vocabulary and background knowledge play far greater roles in comprehension than decoding. Being an independent, proficient reader by the end of third grade is essential for understanding content and developing skills across the curriculum.

Learning to read and reading to learn

Early learning standards, kindergarten readiness, and the “dyslexia paradox”

Between age 3 and grade 3, children develop within core reading domains of language, orthographics, and phonological skills. But there’s a big difference between what we expect of a 3-year-old and what we expect of an 8- or 9-year-old. The skills become more complex and build upon each other as students move toward independent reading. Early childhood educators and parents introduce these skills, help develop them, and provide meaningful opportunities for practice that help move students toward mastery.

Developmental progression of literacy

To catch students before they fail, many states, districts, and schools adopt “early identification and intervention” policies and strategies. Preschool learning standards and kindergarten readiness indicators help educators design and evaluate their preschool offerings. In some states, third-grade reading “gates”—reading achievement standards expected of all students—are intended to ensure students have met proficiency expectations or have received supplemental interventions to better prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead.

Parents and educators have seen heightened awareness around early identification of students exhibiting characteristics of dyslexia. Often, dyslexia is not diagnosed until a child has become so frustrated with learning to read that they think it’s out of reach and the most effective time for intervention has passed, referred to as the “dyslexia paradox.” In response, many states have expanded efforts to regularly screen all students for reading difficulties and provide prevention and intervention services to these children.

Applying Science of Reading research in the classroom

These systematic screening efforts for early identification provide only the first step. To address any learning issues uncovered, we need to ensure instruction is robust, targeted, and covers the right skills. A substantial and growing body of evidence, often called the Science of Reading, tells us that explicit and systematic phonics instruction is important to ensure that all children acquire the foundational literacy skills they will need as they continue learning. This requires great “all-class” instruction and programs, as well as efficient but effective ways to pinpoint struggling students’ specific needs, leading to supplemental intervention and/or individualized instruction when needed.

Right-sized assessment that is developmentally and functionally appropriate is key to making this all work. Assessment for early learners should be efficient, focusing closely on those important skills students need. Results should be descriptive of students’ current skills and achievement to provide teachers and schools with the information they need to accelerate learning for their students. Finally, assessment must be engaging for children and teachers. Assessments that children find too long and boring, that teachers have difficulty administering or interpreting, or that create tension in the classroom are assessments that are not worth doing.

Whether a student’s journey to reading independently is completely smooth or involves a few challenges, educators aren’t alone when helping students reach their destination. With research-backed, high-quality assessment and instructional tools, along with professional learning to effectively apply them, teachers can ensure every student becomes a successful reader.


A Conversation About the Science of Reading

Journalist Emily Hanford, literacy advocate Kareem Weaver, and Renaissance’s Dr. Michelle Hosp explain what the research really says about how students learn to read.

Watch now

Supporting your early readers

Renaissance designs assessments, practice, and instruction tools young learners love and their teachers find invaluable for accelerating learning. 

We know the importance of assessments for early intervention, so we keep our assessments short, targeted, and multipurpose to balance the need for quality instructional time with the need for data. And we link assessment results to learning metrics teachers can use daily to guide instruction and monitor progress.   

Our tools work well with any curriculum and are aligned to early learning standards to support the Science of Reading. We’re continually refining our products to better help teachers move from assessment to targeted instruction in ways that help kids learn best.   


Developmentally appropriate assessment for readiness and risk

Get powerful insights in minimal time to guide instructional decisions with formative data. Track kindergarten readiness and developmental progress with myIGDIs for Preschool measures. Continue screening and progress monitoring in K—3 with Star Early Literacy, Star CBM Reading, and Star Reading. These computer-based assessments are easy to administer and provide actionable insights to help you celebrate progress, catch students falling behind, and adjust instruction to reach long-term outcomes.

  • Star Assessments and myIGDIs are ideal for short attention spans, taking most students less than 15 minutes to complete. Screen students in just one minute with a single Star CBM measure.  
  • Skill mastery, RAN measures, and benchmark reporting aid in early identification of reading difficulties, including dyslexia.  
  • SGP scores measure growth as students transition from non-readers taking Star Early Literacy to readers taking Star Reading. 
Star CBM

Star CBM remote administration

Skill building

Foundational learning rooted in the Science of Reading

When students have a solid mastery of basic skills, they’re better prepared for later learning. Star Assessments evaluate development of critical reading skills and point educators toward the next skills in students’ reading journey. Establish foundational reading skills with Lalilo and provide additional practice with Freckle with learning activities aligned to state standards. Using these tools gives educators the data and resources to be confident students are developing the skills they need.

  • Lalilo provides systematic, explicit instruction to build mastery in phonemic awareness, letter-sound correspondence, blending, fluency, and more.
  • Freckle’s adaptive practice reinforces core text skills by starting students at their “just-right” level and continuously adapting as they progress.
  • Renaissance assessments track development of critical skills so teachers know how kids are performing and where to focus instruction next.
Word building in Lalilo

Word building in Lalilo

Authentic text

Wide, diverse reading to build vocabulary, reading fluency, and background knowledge

Ensuring young learners have access to a variety of texts lets them explore the world through literature. A full library of books is available at children’s fingertips with myON, and educators can track student reading activity using Accelerated Reader. Lalilo awards new stories to students as they complete lessons. The student-recorded read-aloud feature in myON allows young readers to record themselves reading their favorite books out loud. Using these tools helps to encourage new interests, expand vocabulary, improve fluency, and ignite a passion for reading that will last a lifetime.

  • Accelerated Reader and myON include a bookshelf display of the books already read and provide suggestions for what to read in the future.
  • Students learn new words in context with myON level-appropriate digital books (including audio narration) and Accelerated Reader vocabulary practice quizzes.
  • Student-recorded read-alouds make reading fluency practice fun and rewarding for students and give teachers deeper insights into their students’ reading progress.
  • Results from optional adaptive placement assessments help ensure readers get just right reading level recommendations.
  • Reading scaffolds such as highlighting, journal, and dictionaries embedded in myON help students make sense of text.
  • Children discover new books to match and expand vocabulary with easy-to-use search tools.
  • myON News helps children make sense of the world around them with interactive, safe, age-appropriate content curated just for their reading levels.

myON student book library


Learning data to personalize instruction and practice

Stay informed on student literacy activity with regular data insights. Knowing students’ mastery of critical skills and focusing instruction on those that need attention builds fluent, successful readers. Educators use metrics and insights from student use of myON, Accelerated Reader, Lalilo, Star Assessments, and Freckle to tailor instructional plans and guide students to greater growth.

  • Metrics from myON and Accelerated Reader help teachers understand student engagement, comprehension, and reading growth.
  • Keep tabs on what kids are reading (and/or what is being read to them), how well they’re understanding, and how their vocabulary is growing using Accelerated Reader.
  • Set personalized reading goals to increase engagement and growth, and monitor student progress with visual dashboards.
  • Whether students complete teacher-placed or student-driven exercises, Lalilo and Freckle provide skill-mastery data that help teachers decide if more instruction is needed or it’s time to move on.
  • Star Assessments make it easy to form instructional groups of students with similar needs and identify the Focus Skills™ students are ready to learn.

Freckle ELA report card


Engaging activities and interactions that foster positive relationships

When caring, responsive adults encourage and support children in their learning, it provides a sense of importance and significance that helps students grow. One-to-one administration of Star CBM and myIGDIs measures give teachers and students a chance to connect and celebrate progressStudents using myON and Accelerated Reader can enjoy a story on their own or with support to establish positive reading habits and develop appreciation for reading.

  • Easily spread the love of reading between home and school with myON books available 24/7 on any digital device and real-time Accelerated Reader progress updates. 
  • Accelerated Reader provides opportunities to regularly check-in with students about their reading activity to celebrate reading growth. 
  • Star CBM and myIGDIs administrations bring a personal aspect to assessment that gives kids the opportunity to shine while letting teachers see exactly what students know.  

Read with myON at home

Blog post

Common misconceptions about the Science of Reading

Three literacy experts respond to myths and misconceptions about reading science.

View blog post

How Renaissance can help

Renaissance products for this solution

Accurate assessment

PK K 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8–12

Engaging instruction and practice

PK K 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8–12
Accelerated Reader K–12
Freckle K–12
Lalilo K–2
myON PK–12

Being an independent, proficient reader by the end of third grade is essential for understanding content and developing skills across the curriculum.

A KIDS COUNT Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Let’s talk about early learning strategies

Chat with us

See Renaissance in action

Select your school

Searching for schools in ZIP code ---

Loading schools…

Don't see your school?