U. of North Carolina

Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI)

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Grade Levels Group Size Tutor Type Qualifying Studies Average Effect Size
K-21Classroom/Resource Teacher or Teaching Asst.2+0.33

Contact Info

(919) 843-0437


Groups Studied
Asian American
English Learners
Free and Reduced Lunch

Communities Studied

Program Description

Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI) is an evidence-based professional development program with an embedded student reading intervention. Teachers work with students in a one-on-one setting daily for a period of 8-10 weeks to rapidly accelerate reading progress, placing a strong focus on synthesizing sounds to decode text. TRI was particularly designed for rural schools.



Any classroom teacher, teacher assistant, or resource teacher can be trained in TRI. TRI teachers participate in two days of initial TRI training, and then receive weekly coaching. TRI literacy coaches guide teachers’ implementation of TRI activities and delivery of diagnostic instruction. A full-time TRI teacher provides approximately 15 students with 15-minute daily TRI lessons, switching students after each quarter, allowing the teacher to reach 60 students over the course of the year. Teachers ideally work in-person to provide students the opportunity to use TRI’s hands-on materials, but TRI lessons can also be delivered virtually.


TRI was designed for K-2 students who are not yet reading and/or who have challenges mastering specific reading skills (such as phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, or vocabulary development). Each student works one-on-one with a TRI teacher for approximately 15 minutes a day in daily TRI lessons for 8-10 weeks.


TRI teachers need access to a tablet or touchscreen laptop with Internet to receive weekly virtual coaching from TRI literacy coaches and for students to read digital books.


Teachers use interactive TRI activities and strategies within an evidence-based scope and sequence to promote students’ phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. TRI can be used to supplement any curriculum. TRI teachers learn how to differentiate instruction for each student. They engage in diagnostic instruction, tailoring all elements of the lesson – from word and text choices to instructional level – to meet the needs of each individual student. TRI materials include letter tiles, white board, word lists, lesson guides, lesson planning tool, picture dictionary, and digital decodable books, all of which can be accessed digitally.


TRI is designed to work with the reading assessments already in place in the classroom. An initial assessment informs student placement for the first TRI lesson. As part of every TRI lesson, teachers engage in formative assessment to guide their instruction for each student.

Program Operation

TRI contains four progressively more difficult levels of reading complexity that provide explicit and systematic instruction in foundational reading skills. Levels begin with two- and three-sound short vowel words, then four- to six-sound short vowel words, then long vowels, and finally multisyllable words. Each lesson contains three basic activities: Rereading for Fluency, Word Work, and Connected Text Reading. All Word Work is completed in the context of real words to provide a purpose for the activity and the opportunity for oral language development. During Connected Text Reading, students work with texts that are carefully matched to the focus of the Word Work lessons, beginning with decodable texts but progressing to more complex texts as soon as appropriate. TRI lessons are tailored to meet the needs of each individual student.

Professional Development, Progress Monitoring, and Follow-up

TRI teachers attend two days of initial in-person or virtual training, where they watch training videos, observe coaches model TRI activities and strategies, and practice TRI. After training, TRI teachers receive weekly real-time virtual coaching sessions from TRI literacy coaches as the teacher works with a student. The virtual format allows coaches to work with teachers all over the country and provide immediate support and guidance to build teachers’ diagnostic teaching skills. TRI literacy coaches are available to offer support at all times during the school day. 


Annual Per Tutor Costs: Tutor is a full-time school employee (60 students served per tutor each year)

Professional Development with a Literacy Coach (initial training and weekly coaching)$ 1728
Professional Development Materials$200
Total Cost$1928

Research on Program Outcomes

Two studies have evaluated the impact of TRI on student reading (formerly called Targeted Reading Intervention) in grades K-1. Both studies (Vernon-Feagans et al., 2013, 2018) took place in Title 1 schools in rural communities. In the first study (Vernon-Feagans et al., 2013), approximately 45% of students were White, 30% of students were Black, and 25% were Hispanic. Effect sizes averaged +0.43 for alphabetics and +0.46 for passage comprehension. In the second study, 25% of students were White, 54% were Black, 16% were Hispanic, and 7% were of another race or ethnicity. Effect sizes averaged +0.27 for alphabetics and +0.16 for passage comprehension. The overall mean was +0.33.

Key Studies

  • Vernon-Feagans, L., Kainz, K., Hedrick, A., Ginsberg, M., & Amendum, S. (2013). Live webcam coaching to help early elementary classroom teachers provide effective literacy instruction for struggling readers: The Targeted Reading Intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 1175–1187. doi: 10.1037/a0032143 
  • Vernon-Feagans, L., Bratsch-Hines, M. E., Varghese, C., Cutrer, E., & Garwood, J. (2018). Improving struggling readers’ early literacy skills through a Tier 2 professional development program for rural classroom teachers: The Targeted Reading Intervention. Elementary School Journal, 118, 525–548. doi:10.1086/697491
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