Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Implementing Evidence-Based Reading Practices in K–3 Classrooms


Rigorous reviews of reading research over the past 2 decades agree on evidence-based practices in K–3 classrooms. Yet results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that about one-third of the nation’s 4th graders are proficient in reading—an inadequate percentage for a nation that demands a literate citizenry and workforce. The first objective of this article is to provide an overview of the evidence-based reading practices recommended in K–3 instruction based on systematic reviews and meta-analyses of classroom instruction and intervention studies. The second objective is to provide a brief overview of essential features of multitiered systems of support for implementing evidence-based reading interventions in grades K–3. The third objective is to provide resources to help practitioners implement evidence-based literacy instruction in primary grade classrooms and in intervention settings.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Baker, S., Lesaux, N., Jayanthi, M., Dimino, J., Proctor, C. P., Morris, J., Gersten, R., … Newman-Gonchar, R. (2014). Teaching academic content and literacy to English learners in elementary and middle school (NCEE 2014–4012). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

  2. Beck, M., Burns, M. K., & Lau, M. (2009). The effect of preteaching reading skills on the on-task behavior of children identified with behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 34, 91–99.

  3. Blair, C., & Razza, R. (2007). Relating effortful control, executive function, and false belief understanding to emerging math and literacy abilities in kindergarten. Child Development, 78(2), 647–663. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01019.x.

  4. Bradshaw, C., Mitchell, M., & Leaf, P. (2010). Examining the effects of schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports on student outcomes. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12(3), 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098300709334798.

  5. Campbell, F., Pungello, E., Miller-Johnson, S., Burchinal, M., & Ramey, C. (2001). The development of cognitive and academic abilities: Growth curves from an early childhood education experiment. Developmental Psychology, 37, 231–242. https://doi.org/10.1037//0012-1649.37.2.231.

  6. Castles, A., Rastle, K., & Nation, K. (2018). Ending the Reading wars: Reading acquisition from novice to expert. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19(1), 5–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100618772271.

  7. Coyne, M., Oldham, A., Leonard, K., Burns, D., & Gage, N. (2016). Delving into the details: Implementing multitiered K–3 reading supports in high-priority schools. New Directions for Child & Adolescent Development, 154, 67–85. https://doi.org/10.1002/cad.20175.

  8. Foorman, B., Beyler, N., Borradaile, K., Coyne, M., Denton, C., Dimino, J., … Wissel, S. (2016a). Foundational skills to support reading for understanding in kindergarten through 3rdgrade (NCEE 2016–4008). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

  9. Foorman, B., Dombek, J., & Smith, K. (2016b). Seven elements important to successful implementation of early literacy intervention. New Directions in Child & Adolescent Development, 154, 49–65. https://doi.org/10.1002/cad.20178.

  10. Foorman, B., Herrera, S., & Dombek, J. (2018b). The relative impact of aligning tier 2 intervention materials to classroom core reading materials in grades K–2. Elementary School Journal, 118(3), 477–504. https://doi.org/10.1086/696021.

  11. Foorman, B., Petscher, Y., & Herrera, S. (2018a). Unique and common effects of oral language in predicting reading comprehension in grades 1–10. Learning and Individual Differences, 63, 12–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2018.02.011.

  12. Foorman, B., & Wanzek, J. (2015). Classroom Reading instruction for all students. In S. R. Jimerson, M. K. Burns, & A. M. VanDerHeyden (Eds.), The handbook of response to intervention: The science and practice of multi-tiered systems of support (2nd ed., pp. 235–252). New York: Springer Science.

  13. Gersten, R., Newman-Gonchar, R., Haymond, K., & Dimino, J. (2017a). What is the evidence base for response to intervention in reading in grades 1–3? (REL 2016–129). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED573686.pdf. Accessed 5 Feb 2020

  14. Gersten, R., Jayanthi, M., & Dimino, J. (2017b). Too much, too soon? A commentary on what the national response-to-intervention evaluation left unanswered and what reading intervention research tells us. Exceptional Children, 83, 244–254. https://doi.org/10.1177/0014402917692847.

  15. Gest, S. D., & Gest, J. M. (2005). Reading tutoring for students at academic and behavioral risk: Effects on time-on-task in the classroom. Education & Treatment of Children, 28, 25–47.

  16. Hagan-Burke, S., Kwok, O., Zou, Y., Johnson, C., Simmons, D., & Coyne, M. D. (2011). An examination of problem behaviors and reading outcomes in kindergarten students. Journal of Special Education, 45, 131–148.

  17. Hart, B., & Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful differences. Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.

  18. Horner, R., & Sugai, G. (2015). School-wide PBIS: An example of applied behavior analysis implemented at a scale of social importance. Behavior Analysis Practice, 8, 80–85. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-015-0045-4.

  19. Horner, R., Sugai, G., & Anderson, C. (2010). Examining the evidence base for school-wide positive behavior support. Focus on Exceptional Children, 42(8), 1–14.

  20. Horner, R., Sugai, G., Smolkowski, K., Eber, L., Nakasato, J., Todd, A., & Esperanza, J. (2009). A randomized, wait-list controlled effectiveness trial assessing school-wide positive behavior support in elementary schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 11(3), 133–144. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098300709332067.

  21. Kellam, S. G., Rebok, G. W., Mayer, L. S., Ialongo, N., & Kalodner, C. R. (1994). Depressive symptoms over first grade and their response to a developmental epidemiologically based preventive trial aimed at improving achievement. Development and Psychopathology, 6, 463–481. https://doi.org/10.1017/X0954579400006052.

  22. Lane, K., Menzies, H., Ennis, R., & Oakes, W. (2015). Supporting behavior for school success. New York: Guilford Press.

  23. Lane, K. L., Wehby, J. H., Menzies, H. M., Gregg, R. M., Doukas, G. L., & Munton, S. M. (2002). Early literacy instruction for first-grade students at-risk for antisocial behavior. Education & Treatment of Children, 25, 438–458.

  24. McIntosh, K., Chard, D., Boland, J., & Horner, R. (2006). Demonstration of combined efforts in school-wide academic and behavioral systems and incidence of reading and behavior challenges in early elementary grades. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 8, 146–154.

  25. McIntosh, K., & Goodman, S. (2016). Integrated multi-tiered systems of support: Blending RTI and PBIS. New York: Guilford Press.

  26. Nagy, W., & Townsend, D. (2012). Words as tools: Learning academic vocabulary as language acquisition. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(1), 91–108. https://doi.org/10.1002/RRQ.011.

  27. National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). (2019). NAEP 2019 reading: A report card for the nation and the states. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

  28. National Education Association. (2008). Parent, family, community involvement in education. An NEA policy brief. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB11_ParentInvolvement08.pdf. Accessed 5 Feb 2020

  29. National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHHD). (2000). National reading panel: Teaching children to read: Reports of the subgroups (NIH pub. No. 00–4754). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

  30. National Research Council. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, Committee on Behavioral and Social Science and Education, C. E. Snow, M. S. Burns, & P. Griffin, eds. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

  31. Pas, E., & Bradshaw, C. (2012). Examining the association between implementation and outcomes: State-wide scale-up of school-wide positive behavior intervention and supports. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 417–433.

  32. RAND Reading Study Group. (2002). Reading for understanding. Santa Monica: RAND.

  33. Rayner, K., Foorman, B., Perfetti, C., Pesetsky, D., & Seidenberg, M. (2001). How psychological science informs the teaching of reading. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2(2), 31–74. https://doi.org/10.1111/1529-1006.00004.

  34. Sasser, T., Bierman, K., Heinrichs, B., & Nix, R. (2017). Preschool intervention can promote sustained growth in the executive-function skills of children exhibiting early deficits. Psychological Science, 28, 1–12.

  35. Snow, C. (2010). Academic language and the challenge of reading for learning about science. Science, 328(5977), 450–452. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1182597.

  36. Sugai, G., & Horner, R. (2009). Responsiveness-to-intervention and school-wide positive behavior supports: Integration of multi-tiered system approaches. Exceptionality, 17, 223–237. https://doi.org/10.1080/09362830903235375.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Barbara R. Foorman.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Foorman, B.R., Lee, L. & Smith, K. Implementing Evidence-Based Reading Practices in K–3 Classrooms. Educ. Treat. Child. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43494-020-00005-3

Download citation


  • Reading instruction
  • Reading intervention
  • Reading resources
  • Literacy instruction
  • Literacy intervention