If you've ever completed the Read Along step of the Read Naturally strategy with a student, you've probably noticed that the narrator reads the stories slowly. Some teachers have wondered if this rate is too slow. After all, our goal is fluency. Shouldn't the stories be modeled at a rate that matches the speed of normal conversation?

Not exactly. When designing the Read Naturally program, Candyce Ihnot did extensive research into modeled reading rates for developing readers. She discovered from published studies, as well as her own experience, that slower rates resulted in improved accuracy for students.

Student at ComputerThis is because the Read Along step is when students actually learn the words of the story. The slower pace allows students to connect the way a word looks with the way it sounds—a key aspect of becoming fluent. If students can’t keep up with the modeled pace, they will miss this important opportunity to develop word recognition.

With this in mind, Read Naturally stories are recorded at three different rates. The first recording is the slowest, the second is a little faster, and the third is considered an expressive rate. The specific reading rates for each level are available in a table on the Read Naturally website. Read Naturally recommends that most students read along with all three recordings during the Read Along step.

After they learn to accurately read the words in the story, students continue to build fluency by reading the story several times. This pairing of teacher modeling and repeated reading—combined with the motivation of progress monitoring—is Read Naturally’s recipe for turning struggling readers into fluent readers.

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