Curry School Researchers Awarded $4M Grant to Study ‘Read Well’ Program


Audrey Breen

Professor Emily Solari will lead a team of researchers to evaluate the Reading Well program’s impact on first grade children.

Read Well is an early reading curriculum and intervention program that has been shown to improve reading outcomes for kindergarten students. With a $4 million replication grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, Emily Solari, professor of reading education at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development, will lead a team of researchers to evaluate the program’s impact on first grade children who are experiencing difficulties learning to read and are also at-risk for future reading challenges.

“There is a need to build a scientific research base in the area of reading intervention,” Solari said. “While we know a lot about how children learn to read and why they experience difficulties, we know less about specific intervention practices that are effective, especially in diverse student populations.

“One way that we do that is by conducting replication studies of intervention programs that have been previously found to be effective. Read Well has demonstrated effectiveness with developing the early reading skills of kindergarten students. In this study, we aim to determine if this also true for first grade students who are having difficulty learning to read.”

Solari will be joined on the project by Curry School colleagues Vivian Wong, associate professor and Bryan Cook, professor of education, as well as Doris Baker from the University of Texas at Austin, and Cara Richards-Tutor from the California State University Long Beach.

The team will examine the impact of Read Well in first grade on five elements of reading: phonological awareness, decoding, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Solari will lead a team of researchers who will evaluate the program in Virginia, Texas and California in urban, suburban and rural schools serving diverse student populations.

“The project design allows for us to test the impact of the program on both foundational level skills (such as phonological awareness, phonics, and alphabet knowledge), reading fluency, and more complex outcomes like reading comprehension,” Solari said.  

The design also allows researchers to adjust the intervention if they are not seeing gains in these skills after the first year of implementation. By the end of the project, the team is hopeful that they will be able to train numerous school-level staff in the implementation of the program so that they can build internal capacity to teach evidence-based reading in school settings.

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