Oct 31, 2008


Reading One-To-One, which began in January 1991, provides low-cost tutoring in reading and writing skills to at-risk elementary school children. The program is school-based, occurs three to four days per week, and is conducted by trained volunteers and college students. An experimental evaluation of the program shows that participation in Reading One-To-One significantly increased students’ readings skills over those achieved by students who were not in the program.


Target population: At-risk children, particularly low-income, minority and second-language English learners

The Reading One-to-One program was designed to achieve similar results as literacy programs such as Success for All and Reading Recovery at a cheaper cost (Farkas, 1998). The Reading One-to-One program cuts costs by using college students, community members and teacher aides as trained tutors instead of paying teachers to tutor children (Farkas, 1998; Education Commission of the States, 2002).

The program recruits at-risk children as participants through teacher and principal recommendations. Children are initially assessed and, depending on their scores, are placed into one of three program stages (Education Commission of the States, 2002). Children are assessed using a variety of tests. The test that determines placement is a list of words grouped into word families. Children are asked to read this word list. Children who know less than 65 percent of the words are placed in the “Alphabet” stage. Children who know between 65 and 90 percent of the words are placed in the “Word Families” stage, and children who know over 90 percent of the words are placed in the “Reading Comprehension” stage (Farkas, 1998).

In each stage, tutors follow specific curricula. All levels of tutoring include reading and writing components. As children move up through the tutoring levels, the material covered becomes more complex (Farkas, 1998). The Alphabet curriculum covers letter sounds, letter identification, phonemic awareness and phonological processing skills. It includes activities such as learning letters and sounds, reading and assisted writing. The Word Family curriculum covers phonetically regular words and words which cannot be sounded out. Children learn words grouped into families as well as engage in reading and assisted writing activities. Finally, at the Reading Comprehension level, students read books, which are at their level. They also engage in creative writing (Farkas, 1998). Throughout the program every fifth tutoring session is devoted to assessing children for progress and possible advancement to the next stage.

Tutors can be college students, community members or teacher aides. Tutors are tested to ensure that they posses proficient language skills. Training for tutors consists of seven hours of instruction over a two day period (Farkas, 1998). Training is provided by the individual schools, however monitoring is provided by the Reading One-to-One office housed at the Communication and LearningCenter and the School of General Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas (Communication and LearningCenter, 2002). Tutors may also receive additional training throughout the program to increase tutoring skills (University of Texas at Brownsville and TexasSouthmostCollege, 2002). Throughout the program, Reading One-to-One coordinators within each school monitor and evaluate tutors’ performance to ensure that the curriculum is delivered with fidelity (Farkas, 1998).

  • Number of Children/Teens in Program: The program has sites in six states, as well as Mexico. The program has operated in 23 cities and in over 100 schools throughout the United States. A majority of program sites are in the state of Texas (Education Commission of the States, 2002).
  • Length: Ongoing, the researchers state that at least 40 sessions are needed for significant gains in reading level to emerge, however a greater number of sessions is desirable (Education Commission of the States, 2002).
  • Intensity: One-on-one tutoring sessions (approximately 40 minutes each). Sessions occur three or four days a week. Tutors are asked to commit to at least 4 hours a week; children work with different tutors throughout the week (Farkas, 1998).
  • Service Delivery Mode: In schools, by trained tutors. Tutors may be volunteers or college students receiving course credit. Students are pulled out of their classes for the program.


Evaluated population: 47 first and second grade students from a Dallas, Texas

One experimental study randomly assigned first and second grade students from a Dallas, Texas elementary school to an experimental group or a control group. The students were identified by teachers as children who would benefit from tutoring. Students in the experimental group received tutoring for one school year. They were assessed using subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson Language Proficiency Battery at the beginning and the end of the school year. Results of the study found that program participants experienced reading level gains equivalent to approximately six months of progress in school for first graders and four months of progress for second graders above students in the control groups (Farkas & Vicknair, 1999).



Communication and LearningCenter. (2002). Program overview. Retrieved October 8, 2002 from

Education Commission of the States. (2002). Reading One-to-One. Retrieved August 23, 2002 from

Farkas, G. (1997). Reading One-to-One implementation in Houston, Spring 1997. Richardson, TX: University if Texas at Dallas, Center for Education and Social Policy.

Farkas, G. (1998). Reading One-to-One: An intensive program serving a great many students while still achieving large effects. In J. Crane (Ed.) Social programs that work (pp. 75-109). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Farkas, G. & Vicknair, K. (1996). Reading One-to-One. In G. Farkas (Ed.), Human capital or cultural capital, ethnicity and poverty groups in an urban school district (pp.151-176). New York: Walter de Gruyter, Inc.

Farkas, G. & Vicknair, K. (1999). Paraprofessional tutoring in reading: Results from a randomized experiment, Draft July 1999. Richardson, TX: University of Texas at Dallas.

University of Texas at Brownsville and TexasSouthmostCollege. (2002). Americorps Reading One-to-One. Retrieved August 23, 2002 from

Web Site:


Program categorized in this guide according to the following:

Evaluated participant ages: 1st– and 2nd-graders / Program age ranges in the Guide: 6-11

Program components: Mentoring/tutoring, School-based

Measured outcomes: Education/cognitive

Keywords: Middle Childhood (6-11), Children, High-Risk, School-based, Tutoring, Education, Cognitive development, Academic Achievement, Elementary, Mentoring, Tutoring, Education.

Program information last updated 10/31/08.