Guidelines for the Evaluation of Commercial Reading Programs


The International Reading Association encourages consumers to be thoughtful about the purchase of materials that claim to teach new readers or improve the ability of developing readers quickly. People become readers over time through a variety of experiences: by being read to, by identifying words and labels in their environment, by experimenting with writing, by learning about words, and by reading enjoyable rhymes, poems, and predictable stories with familiar patterns that support comprehension. Readers build meaning from texts when they actively use their background knowledge to make connections between what they already know and what they are reading. As readers gain competence, literacy activities with personal relevance contribute to their ongoing reading development.

The International Reading Association recommends that consumers consider the following questions when making decisions about commercial programs and materials designed to teach reading or improve reading ability:

  1. Do printed promotional materials or testimonials for the programs promise a “quick fix” or guarantee success? If they do, these promises should be supported with evidence from independent research, and the research data should be available to all prospective purchasers.
  2. Do the materials profess to be “self-teaching,” with the learner expected to work independently with little monitoring of his or her learning? If so, the reader may not receive adequate guidance, and errors and misunderstandings may be repeated or compounded.
  3. Do the materials include minimal or no opportunities for reading whole stories and informational texts? If such opportunities are lacking, the reader may not receive sufficient practice to become fluent.
  4. Do the materials approach reading as skills to be practiced, independent of meaningful and interesting texts? If so, they may not help readers comprehend and become interested in reading for a variety of purposes.

The International Reading Association encourages consumers to be informed and cautious about the large number of commercial programs advertised in the media. When questions arise, consult with professionals who teach reading.

For additional information on positions or policies of the International Reading Association, contact the Public Information Office.

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