New Report Stresses the Importance of Early Grade Reading in Developing Nations

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—RTI International released a revised edition of its Early Reading: Igniting Education for All report on Tuesday, May 3, at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) 2011 annual conference.

The report highlights new results from recent initiatives to improve student reading in the early primary grades. Assessments have shown that reading is too often taken for granted in the first few grades, resulting in students leaving primary school unable to read fluently and comprehend even a simple text.

"The situation of early grade reading in developing countries is dire," said Amber Gove, RTI senior education researcher and co-author of the report. "But we know how to fix it, and we have evidence of impact."

One initiative featured in the report is the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Plus: Liberia activity funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by RTI. EGRA Plus demonstrated that through focused training of teachers on how to deliver reading lesson plans, supported by coaching and reading materials for the classroom and the home, Liberian students could quadruple their reading abilities.

The report summarizes the work of a community of practice—comprising government officials from low-income countries, international donors, local community groups, and university researchers—that has assessed the reading deficits in more than 40 countries and demonstrated approaches to quickly improving student reading performance in grades 1-3.

"Our goal as a community of practice is to advance understanding of the barriers that keep children illiterate for years and to mobilize resources for tearing down those barriers," said Gove, who also co-chaired the global literacy special interest group at the CIES conference. "Momentum around this agenda is building with donors like USAID and the World Bank setting a course in their new strategic plans focusing on early grade reading."

For more details about RTI participation in the CIES 2011 conference, visit this summary of panel presentations by our staff.