WILSON Reading System (WRS)

Placement on Continuum of Evidence

Unclear with no evaluation or mixed results

Target Audience

This program is for students in grades 2 through 12 and adult learners who have problems with reading.


The WILSON Reading System® (WRS) program is designed to help children and adults grasp important reading and spelling skills. This program is a structured classroom- or community-based program that uses a variety of teaching strategies to instruct participants on language structure.


Published evaluations of the WRS program suggest mixed results related to reading outcomes. While two studies suggest some improvements in reading-related outcomes over time, there are a variety of contradictory results across evaluations. Furthermore, the studies with the most promising findings had numerous problems such as lack of adequate comparison groups, problems with the samples studied, and inadequate measures used to assess reading outcomes.


Within the WRS program, lessons are delivered in two formats: one-on-one sessions with a student and teacher or small group sessions that are limited to 6 students. The program is delivered through a 10-part lesson plan that includes interactive activities designed to teach students the structure of words, which is intended help them master reading and spelling skills. Twelve individual steps include the following characteristics of instruction.

  • Direct and explicit - Teachers use a direct interactive style designed to help students understand concepts that govern the English language.
  • Structured and cumulative - Each step of the program builds upon previous lessons with repetition and review built into the curriculum.
  • Multi-sensory - Students learn through activities such as finger tapping exercises, writing spoken words, reading aloud, and hearing what others read.
  • Practice and feedback - All skills are practiced through activities noted above, and errors are corrected with immediate feedback.
  • Research-based - All lessons are based on research within the field of reading.

Previous Use

The WRS program has been widely used in the United States in public and private schools, clinics, adult education classes, family literacy programs, and correctional facilities.


To implement the WRS program, teachers are required to complete a certification process that includes an introductory workshop, which costs $559 per person plus travel, and certification training, which costs $1800 per person plus travel. Additional optional trainings are also available. Trainings are held at multiple sites throughout the United States.


Some considerations for implementing the WRS program include availability of trained teachers, buy-in from school administrators and parents, securing funding for training and program materials, and finding space and time for teacher-student sessions.

The Clearinghouse can help address these considerations. Please call 1-877-382-9185, or email Clearinghouse@psu.edu


If you are interested in implementing the WRS program, the Clearinghouse is interested in helping you! Please call 1-877-382-9185, or email Clearinghouse@psu.edu


The program is typically implemented in 3 to 5 weekly sessions; each session lasts 60 to 90 minutes. The entire curriculum often takes 2 to 3 years to complete. 


A set of full program materials can be purchased for $459. Smaller sets of teacher or student materials can be purchased separately. 

Evaluation Plan

To move the WRS program to the Promising category on the Clearinghouse Continuum of Evidence, at least one evaluation should be performed demonstrating positive effects lasting at least one year from the beginning of the program or at least six months from program completion.

The Clearinghouse can help you develop an evaluation plan to ensure the program components are meeting your goals. Please call 1-877-382-9185, or email Clearinghouse@psu.edu


Contact the Clearinghouse with any questions regarding this program. Phone: 1-877-382-9185 or by email: Clearinghouse@psu.edu

You may also contact Wilson Language Training by phone 1-800-899-8454 or visit www.wilsonlanguage.com/FS_PROGRAM_MainPage.htm 

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*Resources and associated costs reflect those identified at the time of fact sheet publication.

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