Case Study: Mitchell Elementary Demonstrates Reading Gains with Take-Everywhere Decodables

Case Study: Mitchell Elementary Demonstrates Reading Gains with Take-Everywhere Decodables


The vast majority of states have incorporated legislation and instructional practices based on the Science of Reading, research-backed understanding of how students learn to read and the best practices for effective instruction. Just Right Reader Decodables are high-quality instructional materials that align to these principles, providing authentic reading experiences that help students learn to read through explicit instruction. Many research studies have found that students with greater access to books, particularly in their homes, tend to perform better academically, are more motivated to read, and have a positive attitude towards reading. This case study shows that providing free high-quality Science of Reading decodables to supplement small-group intervention and expand students' at-home libraries significantly impacts literacy development.


During the 2023-2024 school year, Mitchell Elementary in Houston, TX, partnered with Just Right Reader to bridge foundational literacy gaps amongst developing readers in 3rd-5th grade. 

Quote from Principal Dr. Castillo-Guajardo

The school participated in Just Right Reader’s Science of Reading Take-Home Pilot, a program providing three rounds of specially curated sets of books using student reading assessment data. Each pack contained ten decodable books mapped to a rigorous phonics progression. Forty students in grades 3-5, identified as reading two or more years below grade level, received personalized packs of decodables to meet their unique phonics needs.

Literacy experts emphasize the importance of explicit reading instruction in upper elementary grades as students encounter longer multisyllabic words. At a 
Just Right Reader Science of Reading Symposium, Dr. Laura Tortorelli, Associate Professor at Michigan State University, highlighted research underscoring the value of phonics and word study instruction in 3rd-5th grade. She shared that 65% of the unique words found in 3rd-grade texts are multisyllabic, thus emphasizing the importance of reinforcing foundational decoding skills and equipping students with strategies to decode multisyllabic words. Additionally, she presented findings suggesting that multisyllabic decoding instruction enhances word recognition, reading fluency, and confidence among students. 

The pilot program provided teachers access to high-quality instructional materials for small group intervention that reinforce foundational phonics skills in addition to practice with decoding multisyllabic words. It also provided students with books to take home, enabling them to expand their at-home libraries while continuing to practice decoding skills outside of the classroom.


After recognizing the urgent need to add additional high-quality instructional materials to intervention lessons in 3rd-5th grade, Mitchell Elementary’s leadership team made the decision to participate in the Just Right Reader Science of Reading Take-Home Pilot Program. 

Mitchell Elementary took the following steps to ensure the program was successful: 

  • The leadership team collaborated with the Just Right Reader Partnerships team for a thorough onboarding meeting around using Just Right Reader Science of Reading Decodables to supplement the core literacy curriculum.

  • Students were placed into groups after beginning-of-year assessment data was uploaded to Virtu, a secure and encrypted data portal. Principal Dr. Castillo-Guajardo remarked on the ease of placing students into small groups, thanks to Just Right Reader's algorithm.

  • Two interventionist teachers used Just Right Reader decodables daily to provide lessons for each small group. Teachers led an explicit phonics lesson that included the Just Right Reader’s video lesson accessible by QR code. Students then completed various reading activities corresponding to the decodable and targeted phonics skills.

  • After all lessons involving that particular decodable were completed, students took the book home to continue practicing decoding skills with caregivers. Dr. Castillo-Guajardo commented that access to video lessons in English and Spanish was crucial for family engagement.

Key Findings

Quote from Mitchell Elementary Interventionist

Mitchell Elementary students who participated in the pilot program:

  • Demonstrated significant gains in reading skills on their mid-year assessment compared to the beginning-of-year assessment. 

  • Demonstrated increased confidence and eagerness to participate in small group lessons. 

  • Expanded their at-home libraries. 


The data below reflects the mid-year reading assessment scores for 39 students using Just Right Reader Science of Reading Decodables. These findings are in comparison to the beginning-of-year assessment data.

Mitchell Elementary Case Study Findings



Mitchell Elementary's partnership with Just Right Reader during the Science of Reading Take-Home Pilot proved instrumental in addressing foundational literacy gaps among developing readers in 3rd-5th grade. This partnership resulted in significant improvements in key reading skills, enhanced confidence and motivation levels, and provided both teachers and students with access to high-quality decodables.


     Dr. Tortorelli, Laura. Associate Professor at Michigan State University
Symposium on 3 Strategies to Accelerate Reading for 3rd – 5th Grade Developing Readers, August 23,  2023.

Related Posts

Written by: Amie Burkholder Introduction I’ve got a question for you,...
Just Right Reader uses the “Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass...
Education is a constitutional right, but several students felt it...
  At Just Right Reader, we believe that when students...
With Just Right Reader’s Science of Reading decodables, Sabra Perkins,...
Every year 3rd-5th graders learn hundreds of new words as they...