Site is loading image

Our Story

Based on decades of experience — and results — we believe almost every child can become a joyful and confident reader with thoughtful, explicit instruction. Reading Universe is providing teachers with the evidence-based tools to do so.

teacher smiling at two students

Scaling Success Nationally

We are deeply grounded in the remarkable story of The Barksdale Reading Institute (BRI), founded by Jim Barksdale to advance literacy in his home state of Mississippi. Over the last decade, thanks largely to BRI's efforts, Mississippi's reading achievement rankings have improved dramatically to make more progress in its reading scores than any other state. WETA/Reading Rockets and First Book have joined forces with BRI to transform the original Reading Universe into a modern, multimedia-rich, national platform to better support educators with reading instruction.

Reading Universe History

Invention is the mother of necessity. Reading Universe had such a beginning. In the early days of the Barksdale Reading Institute, when the "science of reading" was just beginning to make it into conversations, BRI determined that it would be helpful to nail down all of the reading skills teachers need to know to teach children to read and to put these into a single big picture. Reading Universe provides a "bird's-eye view" of the reading landscape. The Reading Universe Taxonomy is an interactive tool that enables users to see all that's involved in reading instruction at a single glance and then unpack each skill one-by-one to understand what it is, how it's important to the reading process, and how to teach it. Reading Universe is not a scope and sequence for teaching reading. Rather, it is the all-in-one studio of reading materials and information for showing educators how to teach reading well.

Big Picture

How are we doing in teaching children how to read and write? Why do so many children struggle? How can we all do a better job? This section offers some background and context about the bigger picture.

See the big picture

Reading Universe is made possible by generous support from Jim & Donna Barksdale, the American Federation of Teachers, the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, and three anonymous donors.

AFT logo with the tag "A Union of Professionals"