We are pleased to share a blog post written by Read Naturally teacher Sarah Voelbel. Sarah spent this past year working with founder Candyce Ihnot in the Read Naturally Reading Lab at Faithful Shepherd School in Eagan, MN. This was Sarah’s first experience with Read Naturally. She shares her reflections after a year of using the program with students.

My First Year in the Read Naturally Reading Lab
Sarah Voelbel

“A gymnasium for our minds” is how Candyce Ihnot described the Read Naturally classroom to the students on the first day of class. This metaphor has rung true all year long. I’m a mom of three children who play hockey, soccer, and baseball. I know the value of working hard and seeing that hard work pay off on the rink or field. Why wouldn’t we work just as hard at our reading?

In the Reading Lab at Faithful Shepherd, we strive to create an environment that will foster a lifelong love of reading. When students come through our doors, we remind them that our primary goal is to become better readers. After a year of hands-on experience in Read Naturally, I can honestly say that this program creates better readers. 

At the outset, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard of Read Naturally and knew that I had a passion for teaching students to read, but I wasn’t sure how the program worked. After meeting Candyce and learning that she would be mentoring me, I was excited to see the program in action and learn all that I could. Once in the classroom, it quickly became clear to me that Read Naturally truly worked. 

The Read Naturally program allows students to take charge of their fluency and comprehension to make themselves better readers. The strategies of teacher modeling, repeated reading, and progress monitoring work together to help students build fluency and remain engaged. Passing stories, answering questions correctly, beating their goals, and advancing through levels gives students the self-confidence they need to stay motivated and continue improving.

An important aspect of a Read Naturally intervention is data collection and reporting, which provide clear information about each student’s progress. Not only can teachers easily track the progress of each student but, through assessments, they can also determine which students will benefit from this program.

The clear-cut graphs also show students and parents how the students have improved over time. There is nothing better than sitting with students and showing them that their hard work paid off. Candyce would ask them, “Who made you a better reader?” After some thought, they would always reply, “Me!”

I am beyond excited to continue this journey with my students and Read Naturally. This program provides data-driven results and allows me to use my teaching expertise to create an individualized program to suit each unique student’s needs. It is truly exciting to watch the students progress in their reading abilities. Throughout my first year, it has become clear to me that students who participate in Read Naturally grow in their reading and become stronger, just like athletes in a gymnasium.