About 5 million public school students in the United States today are English Learners (ELs). National Public Radio (NPR) recently conducted a robust research project entitled 5 Million Voices, which set out to discover who these students are and how our public schools are serving them.

NPR’s research shows that most EL students lag behind in academic achievement. Their challenges include a shortage of teachers trained in working with ELs, differences in resources amongst states, and limited access to high-quality instruction. The research also shows that the vast majority of the public school EL students in the U.S.—about 3.8 million of them—are native Spanish speakers. This article offers additional data on Spanish-speaking EL students.

The research confirms what we already know: The need for support and high-quality instruction for multilingual students has never been greater. Helping these students achieve reading fluency in English is a key focus of Read Naturally.

Read Naturally programs support multilingual students in many ways. In the Read Along step of the Read Naturally Strategy, students listen and read along as a native English speaker reads each story with correct pronunciation and inflection. The rate of the audio is appropriately paced according to the reading level of the student to provide the scaffolding needed to internalize pronunciation and inflection. Most Read Naturally stories also have recorded Spanish translations, so Spanish-speaking English learners may also read along with the story in Spanish to reinforce understanding.

Easy access to the meanings of many words in each Read Naturally story provides multilingual learners with the word knowledge necessary to understand the story while also building their English vocabulary. Read Naturally programs support vocabulary acquisition in the following ways:

  • Most lessons begin with audio-supported definitions of several words key to the understanding of the story. 
  • Audio-supported, student-friendly definitions are available for many words in each story.
  • Some of the nonfiction stories are an in-depth description of a word. For example, the story Pioneers defines the word and provides the cultural connection to the United States.
  • Each story has at least one question that focuses on the meanings of words.

During the Practice step of the Read Naturally Strategy, students read the story aloud multiple times, which provides the practice they need to improve their oral language skills.

EL students also gain general background knowledge by reading Read Naturally stories. Each story is nonfiction and provides information on a wide range of topics.

Additionally, two of our Read Live programs are designed specifically for multilingual learners. Read Naturally Live—Español and the Idioms series of Read Naturally Live use the Read Naturally Strategy with content specifically written and designed to support the needs of English Language learners. We also offer these series as part of our bestselling print product Read Naturally Encore II.

This section of our website gives further information on the challenges faced by EL students and how Read Naturally programs address these challenges.

We know it is difficult for teachers to invest in a program without trying it out first, which is why we offer free 30-day trials of all of our programs. Please contact us and let us know which program(s) you’d like to try and how we can support you in helping your students achieve reading fluency.