High-Quality Take-Home Reading Materials Can Make Up for Poor Classroom Instruction
A Study of First- and Second-Grade Readers in Liberia
The conventional wisdom that reading materials cannot improve reading proficiency on their own is being challenged by NORC’s evaluation of the Read Liberia program. Findings show that first and second graders in participating schools benefitted from the program despite their teacher’s lack of improvement in instruction practices. Read Liberia helped cut the number of students who couldn’t read a single word in half (41 to 21 percent), increased those reading 50 or more correct words per minute more than threefold (7.5 to 23.4 percent), and had a significant positive effect on oral reading fluency and comprehension.
“Our randomized control trial allowed us to rigorously examine cause and effect by comparing schools in the program to those outside it from day one. We made our trial even more impactful by conducting 38 in-depth classroom observations that provided insights you simply can’t get from a checklist. It was well worth the extra effort.”
Lessons Learned Are Being Applied to Other USAID Programs
Evaluators credit those improvements to the program putting high-quality and well-leveled learning materials in the hands of students. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Read Liberia from 2017–2022, and researchers report that lessons learned from the program are already being used to fine-tune other USAID programs.
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