On Track: Investigating how to better prevent reading and writing difficulties

On Track has developed and tested the efficacy of an early intensive reading intervention for students at risk of reading difficulties.

Published Endret

Location: Rogaland, Norway
Sample: 1170 children from 19 different schools in Sandnes, Stavanger and Time municipalities (participation rate, 97.7 percent).
Timeline: 2014-2019
Target group: Students at risk of reading difficulties in Grade 1 and 2.
Outcome of interest: Reading achievement and motivation for reading
Intervention: Scripted reading intervention for children at risk of reading difficulties in Grade 1 and 2.
Study protocol:
Lundetræ, K., Solheim, O. J., Schwippert, K. & Uppstad, P. H. (2017) Protocol: ’On Track’, a group-randomized controlled trial of an early reading intervention. International Journal of Educational Research, 86, 87-95.
Data: Achievements in emergent literacy skills and parent questionnaire on demographics, home literacy environment, familial history of reading difficulties, language background and the child’s health pre-intervention, Achievements in reading, spelling and motivation for reading post-intervention and in 1, 2 and 3 year follow up.
Principal investigators: Oddny Judith Solheim, Kjersti Lundetræ and Per Henning Uppstad
Investigators: Oddny Judith Solheim, Kjersti Lundetræ, Per Henning Uppstad, Zahra Esmaeeli, Njål Foldnes, Jan Frijters, Fiona Kyle, Knut Schwippert, Jenny Thomson,  Bente Walgermo, Åse Kari Hansen Wagner.
Funders: FINNUT – Norwegian research council

Policy issue

Reading difficulties (RD) constitute the most frequent cause of special needs education in Norway, and the number of students who receive special needs resources increases steadily from Grade 1 to Grade 10. This situation stands in a sharp contrast to the proven effectiveness of reading interventions provided to students at risk of reading difficulties early in the schooling.  Consequently, to reduce personal and societal costs, educational policy has signalled a shift from late to early interventions. However, the practice field have expressed uncertainty on how to implement these intentions. In the On Track-project we develop and test the efficacy of an early intensive reading intervention for students at risk of reading difficulties.


In Norway, children start school in August of the calendar year in which they turn six. 97% of primary-school students are enrolled in public (i.e. non-private) schools. Norwegian teachers have the autonomy to choose teaching methods, teaching materials and progression of instruction as long as they direct their teaching towards the competence goals in the curriculum “the Knowledge promotion reform”.


At-risk students were identified by combining school entry scores on letter knowledge, phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming and familial risk of dyslexia. In Grade 1, at-risk children in 9 schools received an intervention for 45 minutes, 4 days a week for 25 weeks. The interventions started after 7 weeks of formal schooling. The intervention program was given in detail in a teacher manual developed for the project, and was implemented by teachers who already worked in the participating schools. Each of the total 100 sessions consisted of four mini lessons in a sequence: ABC, guided reading, free spelling and shared reading.  In Grade 2 at-risk students in four other schools received the same intervention as the at-risk students in year one.

Experimental design

We investigate effects of the scripted intervention in a group randomized controlled trial with 19 participating schools. We randomly split the schools between a control and a treatment group. In treated schools, the at-risk children received the intervention. The schools in the control group continued with business-as-usual for the at-risk children. Teachers in these schools received the teacher training and intervention material two years later. The student-teacher ratio was equal across conditions.

We assess the children’s achievements in literacy and reading motivation pre-intervention, post-intervention, and in a one- two- and three-year follow up. In addition to the assessment organized by the researchers, we also investigate effects on official mapping tests conducted by schools.

Results and policy implications

Results show that intensive early intervention for struggling readers can have a substantial effect. The project provides the practice field with an example of the content and dedication needed for preventing reading difficulties. For teachers, the deliverables from On Track encompass screening material for early reading skills, concrete teaching material (manual) and web based resources for professional development, all delivered for free. 

Solheim, O. J., Frijters, J. C., Lundetræ, K. & Uppstad, P. H. (2018). Effectiveness of an early reading intervention in a semi-transparent orthography: A group randomized trialLearning and Instruction 58, 65-79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2018.05.004

Read more about On Track

Norwegian Centre for Reading Education and Research
Norwegian Research Council

About Synapse Lab

UiS Synapse Lab develops and investigates interventions for promoting motivation and learning in education and work life. The fields of the most active researchers in the Lab are education, economics of education, labor economics, psychology and public health. In most of our research projects, we work across disciplines.