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 designed to cultivate school and home contexts that foster reading engagement as a lever for improving students' reading comprehension. MORE includes both a school and home component. The school component emphasizes instruction that cultivates students' motivation to read deeply and acquire conceptual knowledge. The home component fosters engaged readers who are motivated to read a wide variety of narrative and informational texts for enjoyment at home during the summer months. MORE simultaneously builds on and adapts instructional principles validated by research on two evidence-based interventions in new contexts: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI) and READS for Summer Learning. By leveraging the existing research base on reading engagement, this project will shed light on whether and how an evidence-based and adaptable set of instructional principles can improve the rigor of classroom practices in high-poverty schools and ultimately student outcomes.