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Imagine that a fourth grader comes home from school raving about a math game he got to play on an iPad at school. He asks his mom if he can continue playing the game at home. The mom finds the free game online, and it seems legit, so she agrees. A little extra math practice can’t hurt, right? But when she goes to check on her son a short while later, it’s clear he’s not using the game to improve his math skills at all. He’s solving problems like 2+2. He likes this “math game” because he has figured out how to make it 1% math practice and 99% just a game. (He has also weaseled his way into extra screen time.)

Your struggling readers have likely asked themselves, or you, “Why is reading hard for me?” Sometimes, there is not a clear reason. With a little extra help, many struggling readers are simply able to crack the code and catch up. Other times, there is a clear reason: For millions of students, it’s dyslexia. Unfortunately, many individuals with dyslexia remain undiagnosed and have a more difficult time catching up to their peers.

A recent audio documentary and corresponding article from American Public Media highlight a serious problem in our country: According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than 60 percent of American fourth-graders are not proficient readers, and that statistic has held since testing began in the 1990s. The documentary is called Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read?, and we encourage you to check it out.

If there’s one thing all teachers seem to agree on, it’s the fact that reading aloud to students is highly beneficial. Indeed, one of our most popular blog posts to date was about the magic of reading aloud to your class. This practice boosts literacy and builds community, and it is often a joyful experience for teachers and students alike. National Read Aloud Month is coming up in March, and we encourage you to start planning now for the ways you will participate.

Do you have high reading comprehension? This question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think.

What does active engagement really look like? A student might appear focused on a task—especially a task that involves a screen—but the kind of engagement that leads to deep learning might still be lacking. At Read Naturally, we have a special interest in student engagement. We know that active engagement is crucial to progress in reading. Therefore, we have designed all elements of our curricula to foster sustained student engagement.

“How do I know if my students need Read Naturally?” Many teachers ask us this question, and our answer is always the same: “Benchmark Assessment!” Teachers determine who needs a Read Naturally intervention by assessing all students on their reading aptitude using benchmark assessment. Early in the school year (aka, right now!) is the ideal time to do this.

Reading without comprehension is about as much fun as looking at a page of jumbled letters. What’s the point? The reason we read is to gain knowledge, to enrich our lives, and to be entertained. None of these things can happen without comprehension.

Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking mindset research has been all the rage in education circles for a number of years now. Her research shows that students with growth mindsets—those who welcome a challenge and believe they can improve with effort—perform better than students with fixed mindsets who tend to avoid difficult tasks and who believe certain traits, like intelligence, can’t be grown.

Teachers can help nurture the growth mindset, and many have made it a priority to do so in their classrooms. But what, exactly, does this look like? Many people understand Dweck’s research to mean we should encourage and praise effort, not outcomes. But this understanding, Dweck says in a recent interview in The Atlantic, misses the mark.

A large, nationally representative survey recently conducted by Scholastic found that 94% of preK through Grade 12 teachers and principals believe students should have time for independent reading. Most teachers believe that, when students are given the time to read and enjoy books of their choice, engagement increases and a greater love of reading is fostered. However, just 36% of teachers say they actually set aside this time every day. In classrooms where independent reading does occur, students read for an average of 22 minutes.

Make Your Student a STAR!

Read Naturally Star of the Month​Share your student’s success story—nominate him or her for our Star of the Month award. Win a Barnes & Noble gift card for the student and a Read Naturally gift certificate for your class!

pointer Submit a Star-of-the-Month entry

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