The Center for the Study of Reading was established in 1976, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, to address the unacceptably high number of American school children who were failing to learn to read. Three main priorities continue to guide CSR's work:
- Reading research and development must be to discover and put into practice the means for reaching children who are failing to read.
- Reading research and development must be to discover how to help all children acquire knowledge from and reason about the written word.
- Reading research and development must be to improve the education of reading teachers.
CSR played a leading role in the articulation, empirical testing, and practical implementation of what was then a revolutionary theory of reading. Based on this theory, reading is a context-dependent process that is interactive, constructive, and strategic. This perspective is now widely accepted by researchers and practitioners in the field.
Since then CSR has maintained a high level of productivity and visibility both in the field of reading and to the public. We have, for example, sold more than 110,000 copies of our 600 Technical Reports and Reading Education Reports. We have distributed over 400,000 copies of the English version of our pamphlet for parents, Ten Ways to Help Your Children Become Better Readers, as well as 35,000 copies of the Spanish version. Another of our publications, Becoming a Nation of Readers, has not only been a best seller but also highly influential in shaping reading instruction throughout the country. Our video series Teaching Reading: Strategies from Successful Classrooms has become an essential resource for reading-teacher educators and inservice directors.
Currently, CSR has expanded the scope of its research and development efforts. One area of inquiry, which is being pursued collaboratively with researchers at Beijing Normal University, focuses on how to improve early literacy in school age children in China. Another area focuses on promoting higher level literacy in American school age children. This higher level literacy entails disciplined, planful use of the mind to go beyond what is given to think critically about the meanings and implications of the text.