Literacy Research That Informs Practice


  • Diane M. Barone,

  • Marla H. Mallette


This Editorial provides an overview about previous research that has been documented to inform practice. We moved from this research base and asked a wider audience to respond to what books or articles they believed made a difference to classroom practice. Each of the authors whose books were mentioned was asked to write an article for The Reading Teacher. One of these articles will appear in each issue of this volume year.


During the 1960s and 1970s, there were several articles published that documented research that made a difference to instructional practice in positive and negative ways. Russell (1961) identified 10 studies that influenced reading instruction. Almost a decade later, Singer (1970, 1976) responded to Russell's article, critiquing many of his choices, and offered a new list that included studies that influenced practice and should not have and another list of studies that failed to influence practice but should have.

Remembering these articles, John Readence and Diane Barone during their RRQ editorship in 1997 asked Tim Shanahan and Susan Neuman to once again identify research that made a difference to practice. They accepted the challenge and developed a list of 13 that included 5 books, 6 articles, 1 book chapter, and the television show Sesame Street. Topics included miscue analysis, early readers, first-grade reading instruction, children's knowledge of phonology, story grammar, writing, and others. Authors of some of this research included K. Goodman, Durkin, Freire, Bond and Dykstra, Read, Clay, Graves, and Atwell. Durkin was the only researcher to appear twice on the list—once for her research with early readers and second for her work on reading comprehension.

We thought it would be interesting to pursue this topic again. This time, we invited a wider audience to respond as we posed this query:

Diane Barone and Marla Mallette, editors of The Reading Teacher, are curious about the most significant articles or books you have read that you feel have influenced teaching practice. Please let us know your ideas by sending your list of influential publications to the editors at

This request appeared in our first issue in an editorial, at the International Reading Association website, and on IRA's Facebook page.

We had 205 individuals respond, representing a range in the number of titles each provided. As seen in the Figure, about 25% of the respondents identified a single influential piece, whereas 50% identified between two and five influential publications.

Figure 1.

Respondents and Titles

We analyzed the complete data set (i.e., more than 950 entries) to determine the frequency for each influential publication. The respondents identified a total of 453 publications, and, interestingly, 72% (326) of those titles were named only a single time. There were a total of 119 influential pieces identified between 2 and 10 times, with the frequencies displayed in the Table. Our analysis also revealed 10 publications identified by more than 10 respondents, ranging from 11 to 31.

Table 1. Frequencies of Publications
Number of times identifiedNumber of publications
6 5
7 4
8 3
9 2
10 1

As we examined the publications identified by the respondents, we were quite surprised by the results. For example, only two people mentioned the National Reading Panel report, despite its tremendous national influence on reading instruction. Our second surprise—and this is a big one—of the 453 publications mentioned, fewer than 10 were articles, and for the most part they were each only identified once.

Respondents named books that made a difference to practice. When we considered and reread all the books that were repeatedly mentioned, we noticed that the authors’ voices were strong. Authors spoke directly to teachers sharing the strengths or complications of bringing a practice to their classrooms. The books had relevant information to guide practice. Research supported the practices, but the research was in the background. Finally, each author shared the literacy pillars, or a subset, but they made them exciting to teachers and offered teachers choice in how they might be enacted.

So by now we are sure you are wondering what the most recommended books were. Well we wouldn't just leave you with a list. Based on the results of your nominations, we have invited each author or author team to write a featured article for The Reading Teacher based on the key ideas in their work. So in each issue throughout this volume year you will be treated with an article sharing their important ideas. We are thrilled to share this list in alphabetical order by authors’ last names, not by ranking.

  • Richard Allington—What Really Matters Series
  • Gail Boushey and Joan Moser—The Daily Five and The Café Book
  • Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell—Guided Reading
  • Ellin Keene and Susan Zimmermann—Mosaic of Thought
  • Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis—Strategies That Work
  • Debbie Miller—Reading With Meaning
  • Donalyn Miller—The Book Whisperer
  • Katie Ray—Wondrous Words

We know that these articles by writers who have supported teachers in moving from research and theory to practice will become favorites.

In each issue in this volume year, we have exciting columns that focus on a variety of important topics to teachers. Following are the topics and the names of our well-respected column editors. We know their work will cause you to ponder current practices as you enrich your instruction in your classroom.

  • Bridget Dalton—Integrating Technology
  • Ernest Morrell—Youth Literacy
  • Kathleen Roskos and Susan Neuman—From the Start: The Effective Reading Teacher
  • Frank Serafini—Integrating Children's Literature
  • Katherine Dougherty Stahl—Research Into Practice
  • Karen Wixson and Marjorie Lipson—Perspectives on RTI or CCSS

As we begin our second volume year of The Reading Teacher, we thank you for your support during our inaugural year. We appreciated your comments as they made the journal more responsive to teacher needs. We also encourage you to join us on Facebook. We use your comments to plan for features or columns. Your voice matters.