Choosing Reading Curricula K-5

Resources for Districts Based on the Science of Reading

Choosing a new curriculum for your building or district?

The answer might be in choosing multiple curricula, and ensuring that all teachers have the necessary training to be smarter than their programs. The tools on this page will help curriculum directors and other educational leaders to guide the decision making process for choosing the best instructional materials to fit their needs. Why should we choose great instructional materials? High quality instructional materials allow teachers to focus on their students, to plan for engaging and differentiated / scaffolded instruction, and to analyze assessment data to plan for interventions. The goal is for all students, including those with disabilities and those students reading below grade level, to have access to and instruction in grade level content. This requires significant planning and scaffolded instruction on the part of teachers. Teachers need to pre-plan for tip to tip accessibility and learning using instructional materials. Scaffolding to meet diverse needs is much more challenging when teachers must also create the curriculum. High quality instructional materials matter, and should be partnered with high quality professional learning and coaching in the science of reading. After all, teaching reading is rocket science.

Begin With Ed Reports, Continue With Rubrics

Use Ed Reports as a starting point, finding for instructional materials that are rated highly (all green). Then, as a curriculum team, deeply examine the materials using one of the rubrics below.

After Ed Reports, Use One of These Rubrics

The Reading League Curriculum Evaluation Tool

This tool features components aligned with the Simple View of Reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) and Scarborough’s Rope (2001). Word Rec and Language Comp are broken down into subcomponents and writing, spelling, and assessment are included.

Rhode Island Curriculum Review Tool

This fabulous tool, developed by the Rhode Island Department of Education, ensures all necessary foundational skills are explicitly taught in the k-2 curriculum. Teams can use the checklist format to analyze materials quickly.

You Can't Intervene Your Way Out of Tier 1 Problem

Quality tier one instruction in reading is critical for student achievement and for closing the achievement gap for underperforming students. Watch this brief webinar to learn what should be taught in your literacy block.
Michelle Elia "You Can't Intervene Your Way Out of a Tier One Problem

Michigan's MTSS Technical Assistance Center Curriculum Review Tool

Formerly known as MIBLISI, Michigan's MTSS Technical Assistance Center offers a treasure trove of information for selecting curriculum aligned with the science of reading. All of their resources are free. (If you are not administering the RTFI in your building, I highly recommend that you start.)


Colorado Department of Ed Approved Programs

CO DoE evaluated reading instructional programs and professional development programs for use by local education agencies.

IES Rubric for evaluating reading/language arts instructional materials for kindergarten to grade 5

Link to Resources: https://ies.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=REL2017219


Description: It is a tool for evaluating reading/language arts instructional and intervention materials in grades K–5 based on rigorous research and standards. It can be used by practitioners at the state, district, or school level or by university faculty involved in reviewing instructional materials. The rubric is organized by content area for grades K–2 and for grades 3–5. Each item is aligned to recommendations from six What Works Clearinghouse practice guides.

Use a Knowledge Based Curriculum

Literacy Academy 2020: Knowledge Gap - Natalie Wexler

Let's Talk About Background Knowledge and Vocabulary

When choosing core curricula, it's not just about phonics and phonemic awareness. For all children, but especially children of poverty, it is critical that curricular components include each of the following:

  • Alignment with science and social studies grade level standards
  • Use of text sets in units or themes, based on science and social studies standards.
  • Rich texts, with both fiction and non fiction, organized in units or themes.
  • Texts should be at grade level, with ideas for scaffolding to ensure all students can access grade level content.
  • Explicit vocabulary instruction of both tier 2 (academic) and tier 3 (domain specific) vocabulary.
  • Opportunities to write about and talk about the content to build comprehension

Don't Forget Handwriting and Writing!

Literacy Academy 2020: Handwriting in the 21st Century - William Van Cleave