Targeted Reading Intervention:
A Rural Early Literacy Initiative

Each year many kindergarten and first-grade children struggle when faced with school-based reading activities during the extraordinary transition to school. Moreover, many of these children attend rural schools where there may be: geographical segregation and poverty issues which affect student achievement, a lack of resources for a diverse range of learners’ instructional needs, and limited professional development opportunities for teachers.


However, early intervention is one proven, essential strategy for closing the reading gap (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). What is less well-established, however, are efficient and effective reading interventions for use with struggling early readers that have the potential to be widely-adopted by cost-conscious school boards who may be plagued with limited resources. Many well-known reading interventions are led by reading specialists outside of the classroom. This model high in personnel costs, and it also limits the opportunities for instructional continuity and for building relationships between the classroom teacher and her struggling learners.


To meet the needs of rural communities, teachers, and students, we have developed the Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI). The TRI is a dual-level professional development intervention for both K-1 classroom teachers and their struggling readers. The TRI helps classroom teachers:

  • acquire essential knowledge of early reading development and efficient instructional strategies
  • develop skills in matching instruction to informal assessment
  • apply their learning particularly for the benefit of struggling readers

TRI teachers work with their struggling readers intensively on a daily basis, initially one-on-one and transitioning to very small groups, using efficient, evidence-based reading strategies refined daily with a diagnostic mindset. The effectiveness and efficiency of the TRI lie both in the reading strategies themselves that integrate multiple essential early reading abilities always in the context of real words and books, and in the diagnostic thinking that teachers are guided to adopt with each day’s plan.


For more information on the TRI program, please visit: www.targetedreadingintervention.org.

Why This Matters

Teachers, administrators, and parents recognize the first few years of school are critical for children’s later school success, especially in the area of reading. In addition, struggling learners do not make expected progress and teachers report these students have the least success in learning and behavior. The TRI was developed to accelerate rural students’ reading development and allow struggling students to experience school success, particularly in reading.

Factors that Influence Success

The TRI is designed to address early reading skills and strategies which contribute to students’ long-term reading achievement:


For early readers, much of the cognitive load is assumed by recognizing and reading words. Students must possess phonological awareness, phonics knowledge, and sight word knowledge to recognize words quickly and efficiently. The fluent integration of these skills and knowledge with vocabulary word meanings knowledge allows students’ to comprehend as they read. Learning and using these early reading skills and strategies allows students to become successful readers.


Additionally, to provide exemplary reading instruction to students, especially those who struggle with reading, teachers must know the essential elements of reading development, how to link efficient instruction with assessments, and how to provide instruction based on diagnostic assessment information.

Professional Development Activities

Three key TRI Professional Development Activities comprise the professional development program for teachers: the TRI Summer Institute, Weekly/Biweekly Consultant Visits, and Monthly Professional Development Sessions. The TRI model of professional development rejects the common practice of “dump and run,” where teachers are given a set of written materials during a training session with no subsequent support to ensure successful application. Instead, we combine teacher professional development sessions with ongoing collaborative consultation in the schools.

The TRI Summer Institute takes place over three days prior to the beginning of the school year. During the Summer Institute, teachers, paraeducators, and school administrators all learn TRI content, including the essential elements of reading development, how to link efficient instruction with assessments, and how, when, and why to use TRI strategies based on diagnostic information. Teachers learn TRI content through varied professional development activities, particularly with case studies of struggling students which include video and in-person modeling, role playing, synthesis, and discussion.

TRI consultants provide collaborative consultation visits weekly, later transitioning to biweekly visits. The visits have two foci: coaching teachers as they implement the TRI with their struggling readers, and supporting the school consultant as she slowly takes over the consultation process from the TRI consultant. A typically consultant visit includes any/all of: modeling the TRI, observing teachers using the TRI, providing feedback to teachers, and supporting teachers as they problem-solve regarding TRI instruction for their struggling students. Future collaborative visits will be mainly via webcam.

The TRI Professional Development process provides ongoing professional development for teachers on a monthly basis. The monthly two hour sessions revolve around both TRI content and teacher-suggested content. Typical TRI sessions include review and extension of key TRI strategies and related ideas. Typical teacher-driven sessions include how parents can support students’ efforts, and using existing district assessments to support diagnostic decision-making.

Targeted Reading Intervention Staff

Dr. Lynne Vernon-Feagans - Principal Investigator

Dr. Amy Hedrick - TRI Project Director

Dr. Marnie Ginsberg - Intervention Director

Dr. Peg Burchinal - Investigator

Dr. Kate Gallagher - Investigator

Dr. Steve Knotek - Investigator

Dr. Pam Winton - Investigator

Iris Padgett - Project Coordinator

Amanda Bock - Staff

Sandra Garcia - Staff

Jeanne Gunther - Staff

Mandy Peters - Staff

Tim Wood - Staff

Targeted Reading Intervention and Affiliated Research Publications

Amendum, S., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Ginsberg, M. (2011). The effectiveness of a technologically facilitated classroom-based early reading intervention. The Elementary School Journal, 112, 107-113. doi: 10.1086/660684

Burchinal, P., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Cox, M. (2008). Cumulative social risk, parenting, and infant development in rural low-income communities. Parenting: Science and Practice, 8, 41–69. doi:10.1080/15295190701830672

Gallagher, K., Kainz, K., Mayer, K., & Vernon-Feagans, L. (in press). Development of student-teacher relationships in early education. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Ginsberg, M. C., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Amendum, S. (2010). Webcam-coaching for
professional learning. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 14, 40-45.

Kainz, K., & Vernon-Feagans, L. (2007). The ecology of early reading development for children in poverty. The Elementary School Journal, 107, 407-427. doi:10.1086/518621

Mayer, K., Amendum, S. J., & Vernon-Feagans, L. (2010). The transition to formal schooling and children’s early literacy development in the context of the USA. In J. Jindal-Snape (Ed.), Educational transitions: Moving stories from around the world. (pp. 85-106). New York, NY: Routledge.

Odom, E. C., Vernon-Feagans, L., & The Family Life Project Key Investigators. (2010). Buffers of racial discrimination: Links with depression among rural African American mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 346-359. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00704.x

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2008). Rural education. In G. McCulloch & D. Crook (Eds.), The
Routledge international encyclopedia of education (pp. 499-502).  London: Routledge.

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2009). School readiness.  In R. A. Shweder, T. R. Bidell, A. C. Dailey, S. D. Dixon, P. J. Miller, & J. Modell (Eds.), The child: An encyclopedic companion (pp. 860-862). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Vernon-Feagans, L., & Blair, C. (2006). Measurement of school readiness: Introduction to a special issue of Early Education and Development. Early Education and Development, 17, 1-5. doi:10.1207/s15566935eed1701_1

Vernon-Feagans, L., Cox, M., & The Family Life Project Key Investigators. (in press). The Family Life Project: An epidemiological and developmental study of young children living in poor rural communities. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Gallagher, K. C., Ginsberg, M., Amendum, S., Kainz, K., Rose, J., & Burchinal, M.  (2010). A diagnostic teaching intervention for classroom teachers:  Helping struggling readers in early elementary school. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 25(4), 183-193. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5826.2010.00316.x

Vernon-Feagans, L., Gallagher, K., & Kainz, K. (2010). The transition to school in rural America: A focus on literacy. In J. Eccles & J. Meece (Eds.), Schooling and development (pp. 163-184). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Garrett-Peters, P., DeMarco, A. & Bratsch, M. (in press). Children Living in rural poverty: The role of chaos in early development. In V. Maholmes & R. King (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of poverty and child development. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Garrett-Peters, P. T., Willoughby, M. T., Mills-Koonce, W. R., & The Family Life Project Key Investigators (in press). Poverty, chaos, and parenting: Predictors of early language development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Vernon-Feagans, L., & Ginsberg, M. (2011). Teaching struggling readers in the classroom. Better: Evidence-based Education, Autumn, 6-7.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Head, D., & Kainz, K. (2004). An eco-cultural perspective on early literacy: Avoiding the perils of school for non-mainstream children. In B. Wasik (Ed.), Handbook of family literacy (pp. 427-448). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Kainz, K., Amendum, S., Ginsberg, M., Wood, T., & Bock, A. (in press). The Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI): A coaching model to help classroom teachers with their struggling readers. Learning Disability Quarterly.

Vernon-Feagans, L. Kainz, K., Hedrick, A., Ginsberg, M. & Amendum, S. (under review). Live webcam coaching to help early elementary classroom teachers provide effective literacy instruction for struggling readers: The Targeted Reading Intervention. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Odom, E. C., Pancsofar, N., & Kainz, K. (2007). Farkas and Hibel, and transactional/ecological model of readiness and inequality: Person/process/context interactions. In A. Booth and A.C. Crouter (Eds.), Disparities in school readiness. How families contribute to transitions into school. (pp. 61-78). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Targeted Reading Intervention Presentations

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2005, November). The Transition to school collaborative. Presentation made at the Research Symposium sponsored by the National Rural Education Association, Tucson, AZ.

Fedora, P., & Ginsberg, M. (2006, March). Using the NC K-2 literacy assessment to drive personalized literacy instruction. Presentation made at the Closing the Gap Conference, Greensboro, NC.

Ginsberg, M., & Fedora, P. (2006, March). Targeting K-1 struggling learners through an ongoing, collaborative professional development model in literacy. Presentation made at the North Carolina Reading Conference, Winston-Salem, NC.

Amendum, S. (2006, October). The Rural Early Literacy Initiative: Effective professional development for rural kindergarten and first grade teachers. Presentation made at the National Rural Education Association Convention, Kansas City, MO.

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2006, October). The Rural Early Literacy Initiative. Presentation made at the National Rural Education Association's Research Symposium, Kansas City, MO.

Fedora, P., Mayer, K., & Amendum, S. (2007, March). Targeted Reading Intervention: A rural early literacy initiative. Presentation made at the Closing the Gap Conference Research Symposium, Greensboro, NC.

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2007, June). Targeted Reading Intervention: How rural diversity makes a difference For implementation. Presentation made at the Institute for Education Sciences Research Conference, Washington, DC.

Amendum, S., & Ginsberg, M. (2007, November). Accelerating students' growth with the Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI): A dual professional development for K-1 classroom teachers and their struggling readers. Presentation made at the National Reading Conference, Austin, TX.

Amendum, S., & Ginsberg, M. (2007, November). Accelerating rural students' growth with the Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI): A dual-level intervention for rural K-1 struggling learners and their teachers. Presentation made at the National Rural Education Association Research Symposium, Oklahoma City, OK.

Amendum, S., & Ginsberg, M. (2007, November). Targeted Reading Intervention: How early reading intervention for rural kindergarten and first-grade students affects teachers' ratings of students' literacy skills. Presentation made at the National Reading Conference, Austin, TX.

Ginsberg, M. (2007, November). Transactions among early reading development and individual and environmental conditions: A case study. Presentation made at the National Reading Conference, Austin, TX.

Gallagher, K. (2008, March). What makes a difference for vulnerable students in early education? Support, relationships and communities. Presentation made at the American Educational Researchers Association conference, New York, NY.

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2008, March). A diagnostic teaching intervention for classroom teachers: Helping struggling readers in early elementary school in rural America. Presentation made at the Society for Research in Educational Effectiveness Conference, Washington, DC.

Ginsberg, M. (2008, June). The Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI): Integrating professional development, distance learning, and diagnostically-driven strategies for K-2 struggling readers. Symposium chaired at the International Reading Association Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2008, June). A diagnostic teaching intervention for classroom teachers: Helping struggling readers in early elementary in rural America. Poster presented at the Institute for Education Sciences Research Conference, Washington, DC.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Amendum, S. J., Kainz, K., & Ginsberg, M. (2009, March). The Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI): A classroom teacher tier 2 intervention to help struggling readers in early elementary school. In R. Slavin (Chair). Reading, writing and related language skills symposium: Evidence for interventions for struggling readers. Symposium presented at the Annual Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness Conference, Washington, D.C.

Amendum, S. J., & Vernon-Feagans, L. (2009, April). The Targeted Reading Intervention in year 3: Distance implementation and student outcomes. In K. Gallagher (Chair). Supporting young struggling readers using the targeted reading intervention: Multiple perspectives on a longitudinal intervention. Symposium presented at Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Gallagher, K. (2009, April). Supporting young struggling readers using the Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI): Multiple perspectives on a longitudinal intervention. Symposium chaired at the American Educational Research Association Conference, San Diego, CA.

Ginsberg, M. (2009, April). Intervening with enhanced instructional and emotional support: A case study of a struggling emergent reader and her classroom teacher. In K. Gallagher (Chair). Supporting young struggling readers using the targeted reading intervention: Multiple perspectives on a longitudinal intervention. Symposium presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Gunther, J. (2009, April). They did it for Literacy: Teachers change their technology beliefs and practices through participation in an intervention study. In L. L. Haynes (Chair). Perceptions about technology: Attitudes, concerns, and efficacy. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Mayer, K. L. & Gallagher, K. (2009, April). Teacher-child relationships and children’s writing development in early elementary school. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting, Denver, CO.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Amendum, S. J., Ginsberg, M. C., & Kainz, K. L. (2009, April). The targeted reading intervention: Is this classroom teacher intervention effective for children with phonological and rapid color naming deficits. In K. Gallagher (Chair). Supporting young struggling readers using the targeted reading intervention: Multiple perspectives on a longitudinal intervention. Symposium presented at Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Vernon-Feagans, L, Amendum, S., Kainz, K., Ginsberg, M., Wood, T., & Bock, A. (2009, April). The Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI): A classroom teacher Tier 2 intervention to help struggling readers in early elementary school. Presentation made at the American Educational Research Association Conference, San Diego, CA.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Gallagher, K., Ginsberg, M. C., Amendum, S. J., Vandergrift, N. A., Kainz, K. L., Rose, J. C., & Burchinal, M. (2009, April). Helping struggling readers in early elementary school using a targeted reading intervention. In K. Gallagher (Chair). Supporting young struggling readers using the targeted reading intervention: Multiple perspectives on a longitudinal intervention. Symposium presented at Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Vernon-Feagans, L., Amendum, S. J., Ginsberg, M. C., & Kainz, K. L. (2009, June). The targeted reading intervention: A diagnostic tier 2 intervention for struggling readers in rural America. Poster presented at the Annual Institute of Education Sciences Research Conference, Washington, D. C.

Ginsberg, M. (2009, November). Technologically-mediated collaborative consultation for professional learning. Presentation made at the Supporting Rural Schools and Communities Research Conference, Chapel Hill, NC.

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2009, November). The Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI): An RCT of a Tier 2 intervention for classroom teachers that helps struggling readers. Presentation made at the Supporting Rural Schools and Communities Research Conference, Chapel Hill, NC.

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2010, March). The Targeted Reading Intervention: A classroom teacher professional development program to promote effective teaching for struggling readers in kindergarten and first grade. Presentation made at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness Conference, Washington, D.C.

Vernon-Feagans, L. (2010, March). The Targeted Reading Intervention: A possible intervention for an I3 grant submission. Paper presented at the Workshop on I3 Rural Grant Submission, sponsored by the Rural School and Community Trust and the Kellogg Foundation, Durham, North Carolina.

Ginsberg, M., Hedrick, A. & Vernon-Feagans, L. (2010, May). A clinical approach to coaching and teaching: The Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI). Presentation made at the American Educational Research Association Conference, Denver, CO.

Vernon-Feagans, Gallagher, K. C., Amendum, S. Ginsberg, M., Kainz, K., Rose, J., & Burchinal, M. (2011, February). A diagnostic teaching intervention for classroom teachers: Helping struggling readers in early elementary school: A study of fidelity. Poster presented at the Pacific Coast Research Conference, Coronado, California.

Vernon-Feagans, L. & Ginsberg, M. (2011, February). Literacy coaching of classroom teachers through webcam technology to promote effective instruction for struggling readers: The Targeted Reading Intervention. Poster presented at the Pacific Coast Research Conference, Coronado, California.