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Curriculum Details for
Wilson Reading System

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Practitioner Expert
Content Expert
Wilson Reading System
Publication Date: 1988
Grade Level: 2–12
Content Focus: Literacy/Language Arts: Reading, Spelling
Costs: $149 for WRS Starter Kit, $20-$60 for additional student materials and $470 per person for training.
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
Wilson Language Training
47 Old Webster Road
Oxford, MA, 01540

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Design Summary

Wilson Reading System (WRS) is a school-based intervention for struggling readers that is easily adapted for afterschool.  It is a comprehensive program that specifically addresses the learning style of students with a language-based learning disability; however, it is beneficial to any student lacking basic reading and spelling skills.

For students with word-level deficits, the basic purpose of the Wilson Reading System is to teach fluent decoding and encoding skills to the level of mastery. From the beginning steps of the program, the program also teaches sight word instruction, fluency, vocabulary, oral expressive language development and comprehension. The main goals are improved academic outcomes, stronger ties to reading and spelling, and strategic approaches to learning.  Components include an instructor manual outlining the specific scope and sequence of daily activities.  Other materials include: a notebook of resources for word planning, lists of words and sentences, sound and word cards, and a notebook of all rules and concepts that are being taught. Hands-on activities and manipulatives for students are an important part of the curriculum.

The program is multisensory in nature, as students learn through active verbal and physical participation. Students learn by hearing sounds, manipulating color-coded sound, syllable, and word cards, and using a unique sound-tapping system with their fingers.  All skills and knowledge are reinforced through visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile senses.  Students also get direct practice with specific, basic skills, allowing them to build their mastery of reading and spelling as the program progresses. For example, students have Student Readers to practice controlled word lists, sentences, and passages that correspond to the skills being taught.  Lessons and text passages can also be tailored to the students’ specific needs and interests.

Costs and Staff Training

The starter set for Wilson Reading Systems costs $149, which provides the necessary materials for a teacher to work with one student for about one and a half years. Materials for additional students cost an extra $20-$60 per student. Current costs for program materials can be obtained at

A 3-day Introductory Workshop and enrollment in the online teacher support resource is available.  Training is generally delivered onsite, at a cost of $470 per person. Wilson Level I Certification for working with students who may have a language-based learning disability is also available.  This training costs $1,100 per person.

Staff Qualifications

Teaching experience is not specifically required to implement the Wilson Reading System. The content expert review suggests that instructors should know their content area, be organized, and know their students well in order to use the curriculum in a meaningful and relevant way.

Standards Alignment

  • National: None specified.
  • State: Contact the publisher for state alignment

Research Base

The Orton-Gillingham philosophy of reading instruction and phonological coding research form the basis of Wilson Reading System.

Evaluation Details

Several evaluations are currently underway. The Florida Center for Reading Research has conducted an independent evaluation of this curriculum to look at overall academic improvement in the areas taught. A second evaluation is currently in process in New York City with middle and high school students. They are testing the impact of 18 months of daily Wilson Reading System lessons on the reading skills of students who scored in the bottom 30% on standardized testing.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

  • Students are actively involved and engaged with the learning process. 
  • Comprehensive curriculum, leaves no vocabulary, spelling or reading skill unturned or unexplored.
  • Thorough instruction teaches skills in-depth.
  • Materials are varied, and are simultaneously accessible for many learners and a variety of learning styles.
  • Solid research base.
  • Volume of material – manuals, books, journals, cards, DVDs, etc. – may require the teacher to take a good deal of time becoming familiar with and mastering the curriculum.
  • Materials are well-suited toward reading specialists or classrooms with more than one teacher.

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