Reading Together® Research Evidence: A Summary

The original Reading Together® research 1982-1983

The Reading Together® programme was developed, implemented and evaluated by Jeanne Biddulph as a Masters' degree research project at the University of Canterbury in 1982-83. The 1982-83 Reading Together® study was action-research and experimental. It involved a gold-standard, randomised, controlled trial with children in seven schools. All the children in the study were 9-10 year olds who were struggling with reading i.e. reading at least 18 months below their chronological age.

Statistical analysis of the data revealed that, when measured against the comparison group, the target group of 24 children (i.e. those whose parents attended the workshops):

  • made significantly greater gains in reading attainment
  • maintained significant gains in follow-up testing 12 months later.

Children whose parents participated in the workshops:

  • read more regularly, and with improved understanding, enjoyment and independence
  • became more interested in reading and used libraries more frequently
  • gained more confidence in themselves as readers and as people.

Parents of the target children (including some who had not previously engaged with schools and libraries):

  • were keen to be involved in the programme and valued the support it provided
  • gained competence in using specific strategies to assist their children at home
  • provided more consistent help and made reading at home enjoyable
  • reported that their own reading had improved (in cases where parents struggled with reading themselves)
  • gained confidence and satisfaction from helping their children (including parents whose understanding and knowledge of English were limited)
  • reported that they:
    » had developed more supportive and positive relationships with their children and within their families
    » felt less frustration, anger and anxiety about their children's reading achievement
    » were using the strategies they had learned to help the siblings of the target child and showing other family members how to help their children.

REFERENCES: Biddulph (1983); Biddulph & Tuck (1983).

Reading Together®

Effect Sizes: 1982-83 Research

The effect sizes in the 1982-83 research were 0.44 for gains on a standardised GAP test of reading comprehension, and 2.25 for book-level gains, over and above school programme effects [1]. An effect size of 0.35 is the average effect of a year’s teaching in reading in New Zealand [2].

Research at St Joseph’s School Otahuhu 2007

Additional research evidence about Reading Together® was gathered in a 2007 study funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Education. The aim of the research was to explore the implementation of Reading Together® by the senior management team at St Joseph's Primary School, Otahuhu, Auckland.

The research found:

  • statistically significant gains in children's levels of reading comprehension which were:
    » sustained over time (two years)
    » also evident among the siblings in the families who participated
    » over and above those achieved by a highly effective school literacy programme
  • that parents can make a significant difference to children's reading achievement in partnership with a low decile school that is already providing highly effective literacy education programmes for their (mainly Pasifika) children
  • positive and constructive changes in parents' relationships with their children
  • positive shifts in children's independent reading
  • enhanced relationships and interactions between teachers and parents (over and above school/home relationships which were already very positive and supportive).

REFERENCE: Tuck, Horgan, Franich & Wards (2007).

St Joseph's School Otahuhu Logo

Effect Size: 2007 Research

The 2007 NZ Ministry of Education commissioned research found significant gains (i.e. an effect size of 0.68) in independent reading skills across high and low achieving children and their siblings aged 6-13 years (measured over a two-year period, compared with a control group), over and above a strong school programme [1], [3], [4].

Extracts from letter written by Dr Bryan Tuck in 2016

I have been following the progress of the implementation of the strategy ever since supervising Jeanne's masters dissertation. Initially I was somewhat sceptical of the impact of the programme, but after seeing the outcomes of Jeanne's initial evaluation, which was a very robust design, and talking with teachers involved over the years I concluded that it has numerous positive outcomes. The two most important being the improvement in children's reading comprehension and enjoyment from reading, and the structured way it involves the parents in a productive relationship with teachers. [5]


  1. Alton-Lee, A., Robinson, V., Hohepa, M., and Lloyd, C. (2009). School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why Best Evidence Synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
  2. Hattie, J. (2009). In A. Alton-Lee, (2012). The Use of Evidence to Improve Education and Serve the Public Good. Paper prepared for the New Zealand Ministry of Education and the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, Canada.
  3. Tuck, B., Horgan, L., Franich, C. & Wards, M. (2007). School leadership in a school-home partnership: Reading Together at St Joseph’s School Otahuhu. Research and paper completed with the financial support of the Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme and the Pasifika Schooling Improvement Division of the Ministry of Education, Wellington, New Zealand.
  4. Ministry of Education (2009) Ngā Haeata Mātauranga - The Annual Report on Māori Education, 2007/08. Wellington.
  5. Tuck, Bryan (2016) Letters to the Editor of Education Aotearoa, April 2016. NOTE: Dr Bryan Tuck is a highly respected educational researcher.

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