Technology-based interventions have been used to improve reading skills for students with reading difficulties. Thus, many literature reviews and meta-analyses have investigated the effectiveness of this type of intervention; however, constant changes in the technology field make it important to review the most recent studies and how these studies were implemented to improve reading skills for students who performed below their peers. This literature review synthesizes the most recent published studies on technology-based interventions for children with reading difficulties. Forty-five research-based studies published from 2010 to 2020 were reviewed and synthesized. The studies were categorized by the five reading skills as reported by the National Reading Panel (National Reading Panel, Teaching children to read: an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Washington, DC, 2000). Descriptions of the studies’ characteristics and interventions as well as an analytical review were provided. The majority of technology-based interventions targeted fluency skills and used computer programs, while vocabulary skills and tablet-based interventions were the least-targeted skills and tools. Most of the studies introduced intervention as independent practice, then as small groups, and then as one-to-one interventions.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Al Otaiba, S., Rouse, A. G., & Baker, K. (2018). Elementary grade intervention approaches to treat specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49(4), 829–842. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_LSHSS-DYSLC-18-0022
Alqahtani, S. S. (2020). iPad and repeated reading to improve reading comprehension for young adults with intellectual disability. Research in Developmental Disabilities. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2020.103703
Barber, M., Cartledge, G., Council, M., III., Konrad, M., Gardner, R., & Telesman, A. O. (2018). The effects of computer-assisted culturally relevant repeated readings on english learners’ fluency and comprehension. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 16(2), 205–229.
Bennett, J. G., Gardner, R., III., Cartledge, G., Ramnath, R., & Council, M. R., III. (2017). Second-grade urban learners: preliminary findings for a computer-assisted, culturally relevant, repeated reading intervention. Education and Treatment of Children, 40(2), 145–185. https://doi.org/10.1353/etc.2017.0008
Biemiller, A. (2005). Size and sequence in vocabulary development: implications for choosing words for primary grade vocabulary instruction. In E. H. Hiebert & M. L. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bryant, B. R., Kim, M. K., Ok, M. W., Kang, E. Y., Bryant, D. P., Lang, R., & Son, S. H. (2015). A comparison of the effects of reading interventions on engagement and performance for fourth-grade students with learning disabilities. Behavior Modification, 39(1), 167–190. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145445514561316
Chambers, B., Slavin, R. E., Madden, N. A., Abrami, P., Logan, M. K., & Gifford, R. (2011). Small-group, computer-assisted tutoring to improve reading outcomes for struggling first and second graders. The Elementary School Journal, 111(4), 625–640.
Cheung, A. C., & Slavin, R. E. (2011). Effectiveness of educational technology applications for enhancing reading achievement in K–12 classrooms: A meta-analysis. Baltimore, MD: Center for Research and Reform in Education, Johns Hopkins University.
Cheung, A. C., & Slavin, R. E. (2013). Effects of educational technology applications on reading outcomes for struggling readers: a best-evidence synthesis. Reading Research Quarterly, 48(3), 277–299.
Ciullo, S., Falcomata, T. S., Pfannenstiel, K., & Billingsley, G. (2015). Improving learning with science and social studies text using computer-based concept maps for students with disabilities. Behavior Modification, 39(1), 117–135. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145445514552890
Council, M. R., III., Cartledge, G., Green, D., Barber, M., & Gardner, R., III. (2016). Reducing risk through a supplementary reading intervention: a case study of first-and second-grade urban students. Behavioral Disorders, 41(4), 241–257. https://doi.org/10.17988/bedi-41-04-241-257.1
Council, M. R., III., Gardner, R., III., Cartledge, G., & Telesman, A. O. (2019). Improving reading within an urban elementary school: computerized intervention and paraprofessional factors. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 63(2), 162–174. https://doi.org/10.1080/1045988X.2018.1540392
Cullen, J., Keesey, S., Alber-Morgan, S. R., & Wheaton, J. (2013). The effects of computer-assisted instruction using Kurzweil 3000 on sight word acquisition for students with mild disabilities. Education and Treatment of Children, 36(2), 87–103. https://doi.org/10.1353/etc.2013.0017
Cunningham, P. M., & Allington, R. L. (2007). Classrooms that work: they can all read and write. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.
Decker, M. M., & Buggey, T. (2014). Using video self- and peer modeling to facilitate reading fluency in children with learning disabilities. Journal of learning disabilities, 47(2), 167–177. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219412450618
Dogan, S., & Delialioglu, O. (2020). A systematic review on use of technology in learning disabilities. Ankara University Faculty of Educational Sciences Journal of Special Education, Advance Online Publication. https://doi.org/10.21565/ozelegitimdergisi.563763
Donnelly, P. M., Larson, K., Matskewich, T., & Yeatman, J. D. (2019). Annotating digital text with phonemic cues to support decoding in struggling readers. PsyArXiv. 1–8. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/7mw5b.
Ecalle, J., Kleinsz, N., & Magnan, A. (2013). Computer-assisted learning in young poor readers: the effect of grapho-syllabic training on the development of word reading and reading comprehension. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1368–1376. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.01.041
Fälth, L., Gustafson, S., Tjus, T., Heimann, M., & Svensson, I. (2013). Computer-assisted interventions targeting reading skills of children with reading disabilities—a longitudinal study. Dyslexia, 19(1), 37–53. https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.1450
Fenty, N., Mulcahy, C., & Washburn, E. (2015). Effects of computer-assisted and teacher-led fluency instruction on students at risk for reading failure. Learning Disabilities A Contemporary Journal, 13(2), 141–156.
Fogarty, M., Coyne, M. D., Simmons, L. E., Simmons, D. C., Henri, M., Kwok, O.-M., et al. (2020). Effects of technology-mediated vocabulary intervention for third-grade students with reading difficulties. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. https://doi.org/10.1080/19345747.2019.1698086
Gibson, L., Cartledge, G., & Keyes, S. E. (2011). A preliminary investigation of supplemental computer-assisted reading instruction on the oral reading fluency and comprehension of first-grade African American urban students. Journal of Behavioral Education, 20(4), 260–282. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10864-011-9136-7
Gibson, L., Jr., Cartledge, G., Keyes, S. E., & Yawn, C. D. (2014). The effects of a supplementary computerized fluency intervention on the generalization of the oral reading fluency and comprehension of first-grade students. Education and Treatment of Children, 37(1), 25–51. https://doi.org/10.1353/etc.2014.0003
Gooch, D., Vasalou, A., Benton, L., & Khaled, R. (2016). Using gamification to motivate students with dyslexia. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 969–980). New York, USA: ACM Press.
Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, reading, and reading disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7(1), 6–10.
Gustafson, S., Fälth, L., Svensson, I., Tjus, T., & Heimann, M. (2011). Effects of three interventions on the reading skills of children with reading disabilities in grade 2. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44(2), 123–135. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219410391187
Hall, M. S., & Burns, M. K. (2018). Meta-analysis of targeted small-group reading interventions. Journal of School Psychology, 66, 54–66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2017.11.002
Hernandez, D. J. (2011). Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Retrieved from New York, NY.
Horne, J. K. (2017). Reading comprehension: a computerized intervention with primary-age poor readers. Dyslexia, 23(2), 119–140. https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.1552
Hosp, J. L., & Suchey, N. (2014). Reading assessment: reading fluency, reading fluently, and comprehension-commentary on the special topic. School Psychology Review, 43(1), 59–68.
Hudson, A., Koh, P. W., Moore, K. A., & Binks-Cantrell, E. (2020). Fluency interventions for elementary students with reading difficulties: a synthesis of research from 2000–2019. Education Sciences, 10(3), 52. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci10030052
Inns, A. J., Lake, C., Pellegrini, M., & Slavin, R. (2019). A quantitative synthesis of research on programs for struggling readers in elementary schools. Best Evidence Encyclopedia, Center for Research and Reform in Education. Retrieved from http://www.bestevidence.org/word/strug_read_April_2019_full.pdf.
Institute of Education Sciences. (2009). Educational technology. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=46.
Jamshidifarsani, H., Garbaya, S., Lim, T., Blazevic, P., & Ritchie, J. M. (2019). Technology-based reading intervention programs for elementary grades: an analytical review. Computers and Education, 128, 427–451. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.10.003
Keyes, S. E., Cartledge, G., Gibson, L., Jr., & Robinson-Ervin, P. (2016). Programming for generalization of oral reading fluency using computer-assisted instruction and changing fluency criteria. Education and Treatment of Children, 39(2), 141–172. https://doi.org/10.1353/etc.2016.0011
Keyes, S. E., Jacobs, J., Bornhorst, R., Gibson, L., & Vostal, B. R. (2017). Supplemental computerized reading instruction in oral reading fluency and its generalizable effects on at-risk urban second graders. Reading Improvement, 54(1), 9–18.
Kim, A.-H., Vaughn, S., Klingner, J. K., Woodruff, A. L., Reutebuch, C. K., & Kouzekanani, K. (2006). Improving the reading comprehension of middle school students with disabilities through computer-assisted collaborative strategic reading. Remedial and Special Education, 27(4), 235–249. https://doi.org/10.1177/07419325060270040401
Kim, J. S., Capotosto, L., Hartry, A., & Fitzgerald, R. (2011). Can a mixed-method literacy intervention improve the reading achievement of low-performing elementary school students in an after-school program? Results from a randomized controlled trial of READ 180 enterprise. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(2), 183–201. https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373711399148
Kim, J. S., Samson, J. F., Fitzgerald, R., & Hartry, A. (2010). A randomized experiment of a mixed-methods literacy intervention for struggling readers in grades 4–6: effects on word reading efficiency, reading comprehension and vocabulary, and oral reading fluency. Reading and Writing, 23(9), 1109–1129. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-009-9198-2
Kim, M. K., Bryant, D. P., Bryant, B. R., & Park, Y. (2016). A synthesis of interventions for improving oral reading fluency of elementary students with learning disabilities. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 61(2), 116–125. https://doi.org/10.1080/1045988X.2016.1212321
Kim, M. K., McKenna, J. W., & Park, Y. (2017). The use of computer-assisted instruction to improve the reading comprehension of students with learning disabilities: an evaluation of the evidence base according to the works clearinghouse standards. Remedial and Special Education, 38(4), 233–245. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741932517693396
Kim, M. K., Park, Y., & Coleman, M. B. (2017). The quality of evidence in tablet-assisted interventions for students with disabilities. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33(6), 547–561. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12206
Kim, Y. S. G., & Wagner, R. K. (2015). Text (oral) reading fluency as a construct in reading development: an investigation of its mediating role for children from grades 1 to 4. Scientific Studies of Reading, 19(3), 224–242.
Kyle, F., Kujala, J., Richardson, U., Lyytinen, H., & Goswami, U. (2013). Assessing the effectiveness of two theoretically motivated computer-assisted reading interventions in the united kingdom: GG rime and GG phoneme. Reading Research Quarterly, 48(1), 61–76. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.038
LaBerge, D., & Samuels, S. J. (1974). Toward a theory of automatic information processing in reading. Cognitive psychology, 6(2), 293–323.
Larabee, K. M., Burns, M. K., & McComas, J. J. (2014). Effects of an iPad-supported phonics intervention on decoding performance and time on-task. Journal of Behavioral Education, 23(4), 449–469. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10864-014-9214-8
Lee, J., & Yoon, S. Y. (2017). The effects of repeated reading on reading fluency for students with reading disabilities: a meta-analysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 50, 213–224. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219415605194
Li, Y., Chen, X., Li, H., Sheng, X., Chen, L., Richardson, U., & Lyytinen, H. (2020). A computer-based Pinyin intervention for disadvantaged children in China: effects on Pinyin skills, phonological awareness, and character reading. Dyslexia. https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.1654
López-Escribano, C. (2016). Training reading fluency and comprehension of Spanish children with dyslexia. Reading fluency, Literacy Studies, 12, 141–161. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-30478-6_9
Madden, N. A., & Slavin, R. E. (2017). Evaluations of technology-assisted small-group tutoring for struggling readers. Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 33(4), 327–334. https://doi.org/10.1080/10573569.2016.1255577
Messer, D., & Nash, G. (2018). An evaluation of the effectiveness of a computer-assisted reading intervention. Journal of Research in Reading, 41(1), 140–158. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9817.12107
Mize, M., Bryant, D. P., & Bryant, B. R. (2019). Teaching reading to students with learning disabilities: effects of combined iPad-assisted and peer-assisted instruction on oral reading fluency performance. Assistive Technology. https://doi.org/10.1080/10400435.2018.1559896
Mize, M. K., Park, Y., & Moore, T. (2018). Computer-assisted vocabulary instruction for students with disabilities: evidence from an effect size analysis of single-subject experimental design studies. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 34(6), 641–651. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12272
Musti-Rao, S., Lo, Y. Y., & Plati, E. (2015). Using an iPad® app to improve sight word reading fluency for at-risk first graders. Remedial and Special Education, 36(3), 154–166. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741932514541485
National Assessment of Educational Progress (2019). The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2019; Retrieved 2020, from https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/.
National Center for Learning Disabilities. (2017). The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. Retrieved from https://www.ncld.org/executive-summary.
National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Niedo, J., Lee, Y. L., Breznitz, Z., & Berninger, V. W. (2014). Computerized silent reading rate and strategy instruction for fourth graders at risk in silent reading rate. Learning Disability Quarterly, 37(2), 100–110. https://doi.org/10.1177/0731948713507263
O’Callaghan, P., McIvor, A., McVeigh, C., & Rushe, T. (2016). A randomized controlled trial of an early-intervention, computer-based literacy program to boost phonological skills in 4- to 6-year-old children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(4), 546–558. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12122
Okolo, M. C., & Ferretti, P. R. (2013). History instruction for students with learning disabilities. In H. L. Swanson, K. R. Harris, & S. Graham (Eds.), Handbook of learning disabilities (pp. 448–462). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Paige, D. D. (2011). Testing the acceleration hypothesis: fluency outcomes utilizing still-versus accelerated-text in sixth-grade students with reading disabilities. Literacy Research and Instruction, 50(4), 294–312. https://doi.org/10.1080/19388071.2010.518661
Petersen-Brown, S. M., Henze, E. E., Klingbeil, D. A., Reynolds, J. L., Weber, R. C., & Codding, R. S. (2019). The use of touch devices for enhancing academic achievement: a meta-analysis. Psychology in the Schools, 56(7), 1187–1206. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22225
Potocki, A., Ecalle, J., & Magnan, A. (2013). Effects of computer-assisted comprehension training in less skilled comprehenders in second grade: a one-year follow-up study. Computers and Education, 63, 131–140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.12.011
Project Tomorrow (2019). From chalkboards to tablets: the digital conversion of the K-12 classroom. Retrieved from https://tomorrow.org/Speakup/speakup2018-19-Digital-Learning-Peril-or-Promise-october2019.html.
Regtvoort, A., Zijlstra, H., & van der Leij, A. (2013). The effectiveness of a 2-year supplementary tutor-assisted computerized intervention on the reading development of beginning readers at risk for reading difficulties: a randomized controlled trial. Dyslexia, 19(4), 256–280. https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.1465
Reutzel, D. R., Petscher, Y., & Spichtig, A. N. (2012). Exploring the value added of a guided, silent reading intervention: effects on struggling third-grade readers’ achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 105(6), 404–415. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.2011.629693
Rosas, R., Escobar, J. P., Ramírez, M. P., Meneses, A., & Guajardo, A. (2017). Impact of a computer-based intervention in Chilean children at risk of manifesting reading difficulties. Infancia y Aprendizaje, 40(1), 158–188. https://doi.org/10.1080/02103702.2016.1263451
Saine, N. L., Lerkkanen, M. K., Ahonen, T., Tolvanen, A., & Lyytinen, H. (2011). Computer-assisted remedial reading intervention for school beginners at risk for reading disability. Child Development, 82(3), 1013–1028. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01580.x
Scruggs, T. E. (2013). Science and social studies education for students with learning disabilities. In H. L. Swanson, K. R. Harris, & S. Graham (Eds.), Handbook of learning disabilities (pp. 448–462). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Seiler, A., Leitão, S., & Blosfelds, M. (2019). WordDriver-1: evaluating the efficacy of an app-supported decoding intervention for children with reading impairment. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 54(2), 189–202. https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12388
Steenbeek-Planting, E. G., van Bon, W. H., & Schreuder, R. (2012). Improving word reading speed: individual differences interact with a training focus on successes or failures. Reading and Writing, 25(9), 2061–2089. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-011-9342-7
Steenbeek-Planting, E. G., van Bon, W. H., & Schreuder, R. (2013). Improving the reading of bisyllabic words that involve context-sensitive spelling rules: focus on successes or on failures? Reading and Writing, 26(9), 1437–1458. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-012-9425-0
Stevens, E. A., Walker, M. A., & Vaughn, S. (2017). The effects of reading fluency interventions on the reading fluency and reading comprehension performance of elementary students with learning disabilities: a synthesis of the research from 2001 to 2014. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 50, 576–590. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219416638028
Suggate, S. P. (2016). A meta-analysis of the long-term effects of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and reading comprehension interventions. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 49(1), 77–96. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219414528540
Torgesen, J. K., Wagner, R. K., Rashotte, C. A., Herron, J., & Lindamood, P. (2010). Computer-assisted instruction to prevent early reading difficulties in students at risk for dyslexia: outcomes from two instructional approaches. Annals of Dyslexia, 60(1), 40–56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11881-009-0032-y
Volpe, R. J., Burns, M. K., DuBois, M., & Zaslofsky, A. F. (2011). Computer-assisted tutoring: Teaching letter sounds to kindergarten students using incremental rehearsal. Psychology in the Schools, 48(4), 332–342. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.20557
Wade, E., Boon, R. T., & Spencer, V. G. (2010). Use of kidspiration [c] software to enhance the reading comprehension of story grammar components for elementary-age students with specific learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 8(2), 31–41.
Wanzek, J., Stevens, E. A., Williams, K. J., Scammacca, N., Vaughn, S., & Sargent, K. (2018). Current evidence on the effects of intensive early reading interventions. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 51(6), 612–624. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219418775110
White, D. H., & Robertson, L. (2015). Implementing assistive technologies: a study on co-learning in the Canadian elementary school context. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 1268–1275. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.003
Wood, S. G., Moxley, J. H., Tighe, E. L., & Wagner, R. K. (2018). Does use of text-to-speech and related read-aloud tools improve reading comprehension for students with reading disabilities? A meta-analysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 51(1), 73–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219416688170
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
See Appendix Table 2.
About this article
Cite this article
Alqahtani, S.S. Technology-based interventions for children with reading difficulties: a literature review from 2010 to 2020. Education Tech Research Dev 68, 3495–3525 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09859-1
- Reading interventions
- Reading difficulties
- Literature review