Reading Comprehension Interventions


This large‐scale project was a randomised controlled trial (RCT) carried out with 20 primary schools in the north of England, to evaluate three intervention programmes designed to support reading comprehension:

  • A package of intervention materials comprising oral language components (the Oral Language (OL) programme)
  • A package of text-based activities incorporating written language components (the Text Comprehension (TC) Programme)
  • An approach that integrates both oral and written components (the Combined (COM) Programme)

The findings from the project have a number of theoretical and practical implications. On a theoretical level, the research shows that for children with weaknesses in understanding what they read, 20-week interventions can produce significant gains in text comprehension and oral language relative to an untreated waiting control group. Importantly, these gains were shown to maintain over time as all intervention groups maintained their progress 11 months later.

On a practical level, all three interventions (OL, TC and Combined) improved children’s reading comprehension skills. Teaching assistants can be trained to deliver high quality, effective teaching and support reading comprehension through evidence-based interventions. The skills that underpin oral language and text comprehension are trainable in children aged 8-10 years.


REACH is a targeted reading support programme designed to improve reading accuracy and comprehension in pupils with reading difficulties in Years 7 and 8. It is based on research by the Centre for Reading and Language at York and is delivered by specially trained teaching assistants (TAs). This evaluation tested two REACH interventions, one based directly on the original ‘Reading Intervention’ developed by York, and one adapted from it with supplementary material on language comprehension. In both versions, pupils received three one to one 35 minute sessions each week for 20 weeks. Pupils were taken out of other lessons (typically not English lessons) for the sessions and so this evaluation assesses the effect of the interventions combined with more time focused on literacy, compared with standard provision.

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