Early Grade Reading | Global Partnership for Education

Early Grade Reading


A boy named Soumaila Koumare deciphers words on his reading booklet. Mali. Credit: GPE/Michelle Mesen
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)


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Gambia Reads!
Gambia Reads!
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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

GPE partners have put learning to read at the forefront of their priorities. The third objective of GPE's Strategic Plan is:

"Dramatic increase in the number of children learning and demonstrating mastery of basic literacy and numeracy skills by grade 3."

Breaking the illiteracy trap requires early intervention and early grade reading in particular is a powerful tool to achieve later educational success. To make reading a reality for millions of children, the Global Partnership has set up ambitious goals:

  • Cut in half the number of non-reading children in early grades in at least 20 of its developing country partners.
  • Reduce the number of out-of-school children by 25 million and increase primary school completion rates by at least 7.5% over five years. This will be done in part through professional development for 600,000 new teachers.


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.