Early Grade Reading | Global Partnership for Education

Early Grade Reading

Reading is the foundation of learning. Ensuring that children can read in early grades will determine their future educational success.

If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. This is equal to a 12% cut in global poverty. (GEM Report)


Reading with children at home is the focus of a World Bank-supported campaign encouraging Tongan parents to dedicate 10 minutes each day to this family-oriented activity.
In Nicaragua, newly constructed preschools, resembling the outside of a castle, combined with new learning materials and improved teacher training have created a stimulating atmosphere for children,...
In 2015, results from the Zimbabwe Early Learning Assessment (ZELA) showed promising improvements. This progress in learning was largely due to the focused strategies and programs implemented by the...
April 04, 2017
Explore the reading photo gallery.
The READ PNG program, funded by a GPE grant, promotes better teaching and learning of reading skills in Papua New Guinea. The new training method has helped students read much better.

The challenge

An estimated 250 million children who attend primary school in developing countries are struggling to read even basic words. Over the last two decades, national education policies and international aid for education have mainly focused on improving access to primary school and completion rates. Progress has been steady on these two indicators, but the focus now has to shift to ensuring that children who attend school actually learn.

Children who fail to read in the early grades will fall further behind each school year, when the reading ability is progressively used as a tool for acquiring other types of knowledge. Poorly performing students struggle to catch up and some of them simply drop out of school.

GPE's response

Two students at Ayno Meena Number Two School in the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Credit: GPE/Jawad Jalali

GPE partners have put learning to read at the forefront of their priorities. Breaking the illiteracy trap requires early intervention and early grade reading in particular is a powerful tool to achieve later educational success.


Over the past several years, promising interventions to improve reading have been carried out in ten countries, with significantly improved reading outcomes achieved over a large number of schools. Several vanguard countries, including the Gambia and Nicaragua are already rolling out reading programs at the national level.