Read Naturally

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Katrina Davino and Thomas Novak
Read Naturally, Inc.
Copyright 2009

Cost is dependent on which Read Naturally program and which products from that program a school wants to use. The order form for these various products can be found here.
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The materials for this program are intended for readers in grades 1-8 who are struggling with fluency, due to phonological processing problems. The program's philosophy involves the literacy principles of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension and is based on the idea that the best way to address these skills is through teacher modeling, repeated reading, and progress monitoring. Students choose a leveled passage and listen to a recording of the passage, learning vocabulary definitions, answering comprehension questions, and repeating their reading of the passage until they meet a predetermined goal of fluency.

According to the Read Naturally website, research has shown that the Read Naturally program is effective for students with dyslexia and those who are English language learners, and that the program is in accordance with national standards and the No Child Left Behind Act. However, one study showed that Read Naturally did not have an effect on English language learners' decoding skills or comprehension (1). The skills used in the program are integrated, as students have to access their knowledge of the five principles of literacy while reading their chosen passages. The program is organized into leveled reading passages, and students choose passages from their levels to work on. They must show proficiency at one level before moving on to the next. The program stresses the importance of teacher modeling; however, in the use of the program this modeling comes from recordings of fluent readers reading aloud the passages the students are working on. The program provides auditory and visual cues through the recorded and written text.

external image why_readAlong.jpgThe method is largely based on practice and mastery, as students have to repeat the same passage until they have met their fluency goal and cannot move on to another passage until mastering the previous one. The method includes no direct strategy instruction; however, students develop self-regulative skills because it is up to them to choose the passage, read and listen to it, do the related vocabulary and comprehension activities, and graph their own progress. The method is not related to general education curricula, as it is entirely based on passages written specifically for the program. A large part of the method includes assessment and progress monitoring: students set goals for each passage and then practice until they meet those goals, graphing their progress along the way. Students are placed into their appropriate reading levels using a reading assessment provided by Read Naturally, and must be assessed by the company's Placement Packet even if they have already been assessed using other methods..

The texts used in this program are nonfiction passages produced by Read Naturally, and other materials include recordings of fluent readers, vocabulary definitions, and comprehension questions for each passage. Hereis an example of a Level 1.5 reading passage. All reading is done individually, although each student confers with his teacher when he tries to 'pass' the story he is working on. Training is not necessary for teachers who want to implement this program, but professional development seminars are held around the country to help teachers. This program could be used in an inclusive classroom because it is so individualized: students all do their work on their own, and the teacher is only involved with each student for the final part of the process.

This program is strong in that it addresses the five principles of literacy and operates under the idea that all of these skills are necessary in good reading. Since it is so individualized, students learn how to be self-sufficient and are set up for success, working on passages they will be able to do well at with practice. They also get to choose their own passages, making the material more interesting to them. Progress monitoring is built in to the program, so teachers are always aware of how students are doing. However, the program is weak in that there is no actual teacher modeling of strategies: the only form of modeling comes from prerecorded passages of fluent readers. It is also so individualized that it does not foster a sense of community in the classroom, and the actual reading materials used seem somewhat inauthentic and hard to work with. For example, in a story on level 1.5, the word 'tall' was given as vocabulary and defined as 'having height'--a definition including words more complicated than 'tall.' Also, one comprehension question asks students to list three things about the story, but only two lines were provided in which to answer.

Neither of our practicum teachers use this program, but we talked to Dr. Hauerwas, who has had some experience with it. She said, "The program is specifically designed to improve student's reading fluency, and not their decoding or word identification or comprehension -- as such there is particular group of students it would be appropriate for... those who demonstrate word reading skills, but are choppy, word by word readers in context --- often these students read between 50-75 words a minute and have not developed fluent reading skills. In general it is an easy intervention to implement -- students are reading along with a reader who is on DVD - providing a fluent model, a choral reading format is often used. It does require the investment in the CD/DVD players and the quality headphones. I have found as an intervention specifically for fluency, it is very good and can be used along with other supplemental reading programs or core instruction to provide additional practice and support to build fluency. As such once students are familiar with the procedures they can be doing it independently with some supervision."

We would not use this program as first-year special education teachers because we don't agree with the idea of having a child do all reading practice alone, and find the idea comparable to sitting a child in front of a television and expecting him to learn. Although there are some strengths to the program, we would modify it to make individual work only one part of our reading instruction. We also prefer the idea of using authentic texts in both fiction and nonfiction genres to give students the most well-rounded reading experience possible.


1.Effects of Two Tutoring Programs on the English Reading Development of Spanish-English Bilingual Students
Carolyn A.Denton, Jason L. Anthony, Richard Parker, Jan E. Hasbrouck. The Elementary Journal. Vol. 104, No. 4 (Mar., 2004), pp. 289-305 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL:
2. Dr. Laura Boynton-Hauerwas, Department of Education, Providence College
3. Read Naturally.