Years ago, Read Naturally cofounder Candyce Ihnot asked a little boy named Christopher about his experience shopping for new shoes. “How many pair of shoes do you usually try on?” she asked. Christopher responded by rattling off several numbers, which helped Candyce make her point. In order to find the best fit, kids often need to try on a number of different styles and sizes. Similarly, students new to the Read Naturally program need to “try on” a few levels to find the fit that’s exactly right for them. We call this process placement.

Teachers frequently approach us with questions about placement. Often they ask whether they can use assessment scores or Lexile® measures to determine a student’s placement in Read Naturally. For example, if a student’s assessment data indicates that he reads at a third grade level, can the teacher skip the Read Naturally placement process and simply place the student in Read Naturally level 3.0?

The answer is no. Using assessment or Lexile measures may save time in the short term, but it will cause major delays later. Readability formulas, such as Lexile measures, only measure words, syllables, sentence length, etc., and cannot measure the subtleties of a passage. Only the Read Naturally placement passages, which are representative of each Read Naturally level, will give you accurate information about the appropriate Read Naturally level for a student. Using any data other than a student’s fluency performance on Read Naturally placement passages will result in incorrect placement and may be detrimental to the student’s progress.

Read Naturally Encore users should place students using the placement packet included with each purchase. The placement packet is also available as a free download on our website. Read Naturally Live users should use the placement system built into the software. Users of other Read Naturally curricula should use the placement processes specified for those particular products.

Because every minute of your struggling readers’ time is crucial, it’s essential that they work in the appropriate Read Naturally level with the appropriate goal. Ensuring that your students are placed correctly will position them to make optimal gains. Check the blog next week for an article on how to confirm whether a student’s initial Read Naturally placement is correct.

As always, if you have questions or concerns, feel free to call us (800.788.4085), email us (, or leave a comment below.

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