Mission, Vision, and Current Projects


The READS Lab at Harvard is a research-based collaborative initiative designed to identify and scale adaptive solutions for enhancing children's literacy. We work with leaders in school districts, schools, non-profit organizations, foundations, and universities who are committed to applying adaptive strategies to improve children’s literacy learning opportunities.


Closing literacy gaps related to children’s family background and economic circumstances is a challenging task at many levels. Many programs show promise at a small scale or in a particular context, but may not work when applied elsewhere, or are difficult to implement on a larger scale. One size does not fit all for solutions to helping our disadvantaged children. Identifying effective reforms that improve literacy outcomes for disadvantaged children and adaptively scaling them in different communities and settings is an implementation challenge as well as a program design undertaking. Leaders in education must work together with stakeholders to identify problems, solutions, and implementation strategies that result in effective and scalable literacy reforms.

The READS Lab at Harvard engages leaders in schools, school systems, community-based organizations, foundations, and government in long-term collaborations to:

  • Conduct randomized experiments of literacy reform strategies and interventions that have a solid grounding in research and theory,
  • Measure the effects of school and home environments on children's literacy behaviors, motivation, and growth,
  • Test planned variations of promising literacy innovations that are likely to be adopted and sustained by policymakers and practitioners, and
  • Partner with teachers to develop and test adaptive literacy strategies for their school and classroom contexts.



READS for Summer Learning is an evidence-based summer reading intervention with both in-school and home-based components. READS was designed for children in 2nd through 5th grade who are at risk of experiencing summer reading loss. The goal of the program is to improve reading comprehension by fostering children’s engagement with books over the summer. Children are “engaged” with books when they are motivated to read them on their own and in ways that increase their reading comprehension. The three key elements (“ABCs”) of READS for Summer Learning are:

  • Access to books at home, including a wide variety of texts
  • Books that are well-matched to each child’s reading level and interests
  • Comprehension activities, including teacher scaffolding of summer book reading through end-of-year lessons, summer follow-up phone calls, and family support of summer reading

Visit the READS website to learn more about READS, its evidence base, and how educators can use the READS principles to address summer learning loss. 

A Model of Reading Engagement (MORE) is a spiral curriculum model designed to address persistent gaps in literacy and science achievement between rich and poor children. MORE introduces important concepts gradually over time, starting with simpler forms of the concepts and gradually introducing more complex forms. MORE emphasizes the synergistic effect of learning science on both reading motivation and ability in order to foster engaged readers who are motivated to read deeply in school and at widely at home. Specifically, MORE aims to accomplish this by providing students with: (1) access to complex and connected science concepts across grades 1 through 5; (2) comprehension instruction that integrates reading and writing; (3) support for wide reading at home; and (4) motivational supports. Short-term instruction focused on basic skills can support students’ reading progress in some aspects of literacy (e.g., word recognition), but a long-term systematic and coherent program of instruction is needed to foster students’ ability to read for understanding and acquire knowledge.