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Research on the Carbo Reading Styles Program®
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National and Regional Recognition

During the past decade, the Carbo Reading Styles Program (CRSP) has been recognized for its positive effect on improving students’ reading achievement in grades K-12. After extensive evaluations, the Northwest Regional Lab (funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education) listed CRSP in its Catalog of School Reform Models in 1998, in 2002, and in 2006. To be considered for listing in this catalog, invited programs were required to submit 10 research studies conducted on their program.

The criteria for inclusion in the Catalog of School Reform Models are:

  • evidence of effectiveness in improving student academic achievement;
  • widespread replication with organizational capacity to continue gearing up;
  • high-quality implementation assistance to schools; and comprehensiveness.

In 1997 the Kentucky Department of Education included CRSP in their Results-Based Showcase which featured reading programs that had demonstrated high reading gains. (Results-Based Showcase, 1997-1998), and in 1999 CRSP was listed as one of six reading programs selected for the Milken Foundation’s book, Reading Programs That Work: Programs for Pre-Kindergarten to 4th Grade (Schacter, 1999). The Milken book included reading programs that “helped students learn to read better than traditional methods” and are “driven by reading research, not ideology” (p. 7). In that same year, CRSP was selected for inclusion in A Guide to Research-Based Programs and Practices for Improving Literacy, prepared by the New England Comprehensive Center (NECAC).

One year later, in 2000, CRSP was selected by the Education Commission of the States for ECS’s List of Promising Practices in Reading.

And, in 2002 CRSP was selected and listed in What Works in the Elementary Grades: Results-Based Staff Development, published by the National Staff Development Council (Killion, 2002). Killion stated CRSP “has demonstrated its impact on student achievement…offers intensive up-front professional development and an array of follow up support…[and is] adaptable to nearly any school context and appropriate for any type of learner…grade 1 to middle levels” (p. 49).

Research Summary

More than 20 years of research indicates that when schools accommodate students’ reading styles, students improve significantly in reading motivation and achievement, school attendance increases, and discipline problems and retentions decrease significantly. These results have been reported by educators involved in classroom and school-wide implementation of CRSP in grades K-12 (Acceleration Program, 1998; Bradsby, Wise, Mundell, & Haas, 1992; Brooks, 1991; Barber, Carbo, & Thomasson, 1998; Hodgin & Wooliscroft, 1997; Knoop, 2008; LaShell, 1986; Langford, 2000; Molbeck, 1994; Oglesby & Suter, 1995; O’Tuel & Holt, 1992; Skipper, 1997; Snyder, 1994, 1997).

In 2008, a Danish research study conducted at Gauerslund School (K-9) in Denmark, reported unprecedented gains in 100 days. Specifically, Gauerslund rose from a rank of 1197 out of 1600 schools in Denmark, to scores equaling those of the top 100 schools in Denmark in reading, math, and science. During that period, reading was taught using the Carbo Reading Styles Program (Knoop, 2008).

Table 2 from Knoop’s report, lists each class at Gauerslund School, and how each class performed in language arts (reading and writing), before the 100-day study and after the study. Every class made unusually high gains. Knoop (2008) concluded the following:

...concerning vigorous development, academic skills and general pedagogy that have been gained within the 100 days of the project, it is my overall conclusion that Gauerslund School moved up [the equivalent of] over 1,000 places into the top 100 of best performing schools in Denmark…Some classrooms have such remarkably good readers that they are candidates for the title “the Best in Denmark.”

In 1998 Phi Delta Kappa published a two-year study of CRSP involving 561 students in grades 1-6 from six school districts in six states (Barber, Carbo, & Thomasson, 1998). The study compared the effectiveness of many different reading programs to CRSP and found that, when implemented at the 85% level or higher, CRSP was significantly more effective than extant programs. In this carefully controlled quasi-experimental study, both experimental and control teachers and students were matched. Districts used their own standardized achievement tests to measure reading results. The findings indicated that, after two years of implementation, students of the CRSP-trained teachers achieved higher effect sizes on the reading subtests measured six times more frequently than did the students of the control teachers.

Note: Leading the research team for this study was Larry Barber, then director of research for Phi Delta Kappa. All data from this research study were sent directly from the schools involved to Dr. Barber, who analyzed the data and reported the results of the study. Every district involved had two people who had been trained in research design and data collection by Dr. Barber, and who worked closely with him. Copies of this study are available at

The doctoral research of Suter was described in an article by Oglesby and Suter (1995). Suter’s study involved 198 third- and sixth-graders. All subjects were pre- and posttested with the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test. After six months, the CRSP group made significantly higher reading gains than their controls.

Brooks (1991) reported higher gains in oral reading comprehension and significantly higher gains in silent reading comprehension for CRSP students (p<.01), compared to their controls. The subjects for this one-semester study were 42 Chapter 1 students in grades 2-6 who scored at or below the 36th percentile in reading on the Metropolitan Achievement Tests.

Ninety learning-disabled students in grades 1-6 participated in LaShell’s (1986) study—42 from the Lake Stevens School District and 48 from the Arlington School District, both in Washington State. Within eight months, the CRSP students gained 15 months in reading comprehension; the control students gained four months. That difference was significant at the .001 level. The reading styles students also achieved a significantly higher internal locus of control (at the .001 level) than the control group, indicating that the CRSP students felt significantly more responsible for their actions, while the control students believed more strongly that results are caused by powerful outside forces.

Significantly higher reading gains were also reported by O’Tuel and Holt (1992) for the students of CRSP-trained teachers compared to their controls. The control district was selected by the South Carolina Department of Education. This experiment took place over one school year and involved all fifth- and sixth-graders in two participating school districts.

In 1986 the Bledsoe County Schools in Tennessee averaged a stanine score of only three in reading—not unusual for a rural school district in a poverty area. After implementing CRSP for three years, the system equaled state and national averages in reading (approximately the fifth stanine) (Snyder, 1994). In 1992 the school district was honored with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education. The Bledsoe County district is a 1,700-student system in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. The county’s per-capita income was $8,000 in 1994, with approximately 50% to 70% of the students considered to be at risk of failure.

Snyder (1997) conducted a second study with 282 students drawn from grades 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8. The CRSP subjects in all grades under study significantly outperformed students in the control group in total reading as measured by the California Tests of Basic Skills (CTB4), after both the first and second years of the study. Snyder also found that, compared to the controls, the experimental Chapter 1 group had significantly higher social studies scores.

The results reported by Hodgin and Wooliscroft (1997) took place over a period of one year and involved 22 third-grade inclusion students. After implementing CRSP for one year, the authors found that the percentage of students passing the test objectives on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) rose from 41% to 86%.

In 1997 Skipper reported that only 21% of elementary students in the Uvalde School District were passing the TAAS. After three years of CRSP, that figure rose to nearly 70% passing the TAAS. Two experiments were conducted in Uvalde to test the effectiveness of the program. The first occurred during the summer of 1994 with 42 first-graders considered to be highly at risk of being retained. After the six-week CRSP program, the first-grade retention rate dropped from 8.9% to 1.7%. In six weeks, the youngsters gained more than 3.5 months in reading. The second experiment took place at Robb Elementary School in 1994-95. At the end of the school year, the percentage of students passing the state reading test rose from 46% to 73%. Seventy-eight percent of the students in the Uvalde district were Hispanic, many had limited proficiency in English, and 75% came from families considered economically disadvantaged.

Reading gains with CRSP have not been limited to elementary youngsters. Thornton Township District 205 in Thornton, Illinois, used CRSP to improve the reading skills of 226 remedial students in their high-school English Acceleration Program. These were students who lacked the basic skills to function in their academic high-school classes. After nine months of CRSP, the students averaged an 11.6 NCE growth in reading as measured by the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test, and 56% of the students were able to move into regular English classes (Acceleration Program, December 1998).

More recently, a series of Reading Styles Model Schools and Reading Labs within those schools, have achieved extraordinary gains in reading, along with much improved student attitudes and lowered discipline problems. For example, West Amory Elementary School (PreK-2) in Amory, Mississippi, achieved the highest Title 1 scores in their state and were awarded the IRA Distinguished Title 1 School Award (2002). Principal Judy Gaspard of Grand Caillou Middle School in Houma, Louisiana was the only person in North America invited to speak at the United Nations Conference of 2003 in New York City, and 50 or so students attending the Reading Styles Lab at Immokalee High School achieved a remarkable two-year gain in reading comprehension and vocabulary in just seven weeks (2003).

Results at Elementary Schools After CRSP

  • 1995-2008 O’Connor Elementary School (PreK-5, Victoria, TX), had 19% of its students passing their state’s reading test in 1994. The percentage of students passing in 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2002, was 83%, 90%, 92%, and 96%, respectively. The school is now rated “Exemplary” by their state and has maintained passing rates in reading in the mid to high 90’s through 2008.
  • 2001-2008 Fourth graders in Marion Elementary School (Prek-5, Marion, MI), rose from 42.1% scoring at the proficient level in reading in 2001, to 95% by 2006. Marion has maintained those scores through 2008.
  • 1999-2003 West Amory Elementary School (Pre-K-2, Amory, MS), was one of three Title 1 schools to achieve the highest NCE gains in Mississippi, gaining 38.5 NCEs in that period and winning the IRA Distinguished Title 1 School Award.
  • 2006-2007 Grades two and three at Catlettsburg Elementary School (Grades K-3, Boyd County, KY), rose from the 64th to the 94.5% on their Reading First assessment.
  • 2003-2006 West Haverstraw Elementary (PreK-6, North Rockland, NY), rose from a school in need of improvement, to the “Exemplary List of Most Improved Schools” in New York State in 2004, to a High Performing/Gap Closing School in Language Arts and Math in 2006 (their State’s highest ranking).

Results at Middle Schools and High Schools After CRSP

  • 2000-2003 Grand Caillou Middle School (Gr. 4-8, Grand Caillou, LA). In 2000, after only 6 months of CRSP, 24% more eighth graders performed at the “basic” and “proficient” levels, while 22% fewer performed at the “unsatisfactory” and “approaching basic” levels. By 2003, the school performed at higher levels academically, student respect for teachers and for one another was extraordinarily high, and discipline referrals were nonexistent, and principal, Judy Gaspard, became the only person in North America to be invited to a United Nations Conference. Judy spoke about her extraordinary school.
  • 2001-2005 Immokalee High School Reading Lab (Grades 10-12, Naples, FL). After only 7 weeks of Carbo recorded materials, 21 regular English students gained two years in reading comprehension, and 23 ESE students gained seven months in reading comprehension on the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Achievement Test.
  • 2007-2008 Minor Hill Elementary School (Gr. PreK-8, Minor Hill, TN) In 2007, 22 of Minor Hill’s seventh- and eighth-graders scored below the proficient reading level. After 6 months of attending the Reading Styles Lab at Minor Hill in 2008, 21 of the 22 students achieved proficient or advanced levels in reading, including 5 of the 6 special education students.
  • 2007-2008 Boyd County High School Reading Lab (Gr. 9-12, Boyd County, KY). Over a period of 8 months, the 31 special education students in grades 9-12 attended the Carbo Reading Lab, gained an average of 1.8 years in reading comprehension and vocabulary on the Gates MacGinitie Reading Achievement Test.
  • 2007-2008 Ramey-Estep High School (Gr. 9-12, Boyd County, KY) Ramey-Estep High School is the alternative treatment facility in Boyd County. Students are sent from all over Kentucky and live there year round. In 2007-2008, the 15 students attending the Carbo Lab at Ramey-Estep most frequently during a nine-week period achieved an average reading growth of +1.32 G. E. (Grade Equivalent). The largest class growth was +2.0 in nine weeks, and the largest individual growth was +4.3 in nine weeks. The reading assessment tool used was STAR reading.


Acceleration program. (December 1998). Thornton Township District 205 Newsletter, Thornton, IL.

Barber, L., Carbo, M., & Thomasson, R. (1998). A comparative study of the reading styles program to extant programs of teaching reading. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa.

Bradsby, S., Wise, J., Mundell, s., & Haas, S. (1992). Making a difference for L.D. students: Matching reading instruction to reading styles through recorded books. Research in the Classroom, ED 347 765.

Brooks, J. D. (1991). Teaching to identified learning styles: The effects upon oral and silent reading and listening comprehension. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Toledo.

Carbo Reading Styles Program: Research update (2000). Syosset, NY: National Reading Styles Institute, 179 Lafayette Drive, 11791.

Hodgin, J., & Wooliscroft, C. (1997). Eric learns to read: Learning styles at work. Educational Leadership, 54(6), 43-45.

Killion, J. (2002). What works in the elementary school: Results-based staff development. Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council, 48-51.

Knoop, H. H. (2008). “Results from the Development Project The School – World Class in 100 Days at Gauerslund School May-June 2008.” Universe Research Lab, DPU (Department of Learning), University of Aarhus. Preliminary paper available and

Langford, D. (2000). Two-year results of the Carbo Reading Styles Program. Paterson Elementary School, Montgomery, Alabama.

LaShell, L. (1986). An analysis of the effects of reading methods upon reading achievement and locus of control when individual reading style is matched for learning-disabled students. Doctoral Dissertation, Fielding University.

Molbeck, C. H. (1994). Using recorded books with reluctant readers. WSRA Journal, 38(2), 39-42.

Oglesby, F., & Suter, W. N. (1995). Matching reading styles and reading instruction. Research in the Schools (Mid-South Educational Research Association), 2(1), 11-15.

O’Tuel, F. & Holt, S. (Spring 1992). Reading styles program for fifth and sixth grade elementary students: An evaluation of four years of program development. Paper presented at the national conference of the American Educational Research Association.

Results-based practices showcase (1997-1998). Louisville, KY: Kentucky Department of Education, Division of School Improvement.

Schacter, J. (1999). Reading programs that work: A review of programs for pre-kindergarten to 4th grade. Santa Monica, CA: Milken Family Foundation,

Skipper, B. (1997). Reading with style. American School Board Journal, 184(2), 36-37.

Snyder, A. E. (1994). On the road to reading recovery. The School Administrator, 51(1): 23-24.

Snyder, A. E. (1997). Utilization of a systemic design and learning styles model as a paradigm for restructuring education. Doctoral Dissertation, Tennessee State University.