Fusion Reading is an intensive reading intervention for struggling adolescent readers, who score between the 5th and 30th percentiles on standardized reading assessments.  This research-validated program was developed by the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas. The instructional components of the program include decoding, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.  Classroom management procedures along with a motivational component are also included.  Instruction is intended for small groups with no more than 12 to 15 students.  Fusion Reading is used in general education, special education, and co-taught classrooms at the middle and high school levels.  Instruction occurs daily for one or two class periods for up to two years.

The reading components include both word recognition and linguistic comprehension.  Advanced phonics, decoding, sight word recognition, and fluency comprise the word recognition component. A systematic process called the Bridging Strategy is used to teach advanced phonics, decoding, and fluency. A seven-step vocabulary process is utilized to expand vocabulary.

Comprehension skills are taught using a strategy instruction approach.  Making predictions and inferences, summarizing, vocabulary, and using reading strategies to take standardized tests are included in the comprehension strategies as well as integrating the various strategies with real-life reading material or texts from classes. For practice in using these strategies, a Thinking Reading process is implemented using the Bluford books and expository text.


Fusion Reading was developed through a grant funded by the Institute of Education Studies, U.S. Department of Education. The initial research conducted during the 2005 – 2007 school years about the implementation of Fusion Reading with struggling adolescents in an urban Midwest school district resulted in a large effect size. The Group Reading and Diagnostic Evaluation(GRADE) was administered to the students to measure progress in reading for both vocabulary and comprehension. Follow-up research in California and Florida produced similar results.  Students gained at least one to two years’ growth in reading with one year of Fusion Reading instruction. For more information refer to the Technical Report Fusion Reading 3-6-12.

During the 2009 – 2010 school year, two research studies were conducted in Iowa.  The first study occurred at Osage High School in Central Rivers AEA, which was the first rural school to implement Fusion Reading. During this school year,  all of the students in the Fusion Reading class improved at least one grade level; half of the students showed from four to five years growth in reading skills. The large effect size on all subtests of the GRADE ranged from .68 to 1.20. The second study in Iowa was conducted in the Dubuque middle schools. Results from the GRADE produced a 1.14 effect size.

During the 2010 – 2011 School year,  Fusion Reading was implemented at Holmes Jr. High School in Cedar Falls in co-taught classes in both 7th and 8th grade. The GRADE was administered to measure progress in reading.  A large effect size was the overall result for both grades. The results were also analyzed specifically for the special education students and the general education students in the Fusion Reading classes.  At the seventh grade level the overall effect size was medium (.64) for special education students and large (.94) for general education students. At the eighth grade level the effect size was large (.88 and .94) for both special education and general education students.

Schools Implementing Fusion Reading

  • Bremwood School, Waverly
  • Clear Lake High School
  • Central Springs Middle School
  • East High School, Waterloo
  • Expo Alternative Learning Center (including STAR-C), Waterloo
  • Holmes Junior High School, Cedar Falls
  • Independence High School
  • Peet Junior High, Cedar Falls
  • Osage High School
  • Tripoli Middle School
  • West Fork Middle School
  • West High School, Waterloo