Understanding Read Naturally Strategy Programs


1. What is the benefit of having students work in Read Naturally individually?

One of the greatest strengths of the Read Naturally Strategy is that it is individualized. Each student begins at an appropriate reading level and progresses at his or her own rate. This powerful benefit of working individually is exemplified as each student:

  • Works in material that is at an appropriate level — never too easy nor too difficult.
  • Works independently and therefore does not have to wait or continue practicing already mastered stories while less able students are still working to pass.
  • Takes as much time as needed to master a story and progresses through reading levels at his or her own pace.
  • Stays on task without the distractions that working with other students can sometimes cause.

2. How often should struggling readers use Read Naturally?

The more time students spend reading, the more they will improve. We recommend that students use Read Naturally a minimum of three times a week, although four or five times a week is even better. Ideally, each Read Naturally session should be at least 30 minutes long, but 45 minutes is preferable.

3. Why are the stories read slowly? I thought one of the goals of the strategy is to improve students’ reading fluency.

Due to the research Candyce Ihnot studied while developing the Read Naturally program, the Read Naturally stories are read slowly to provide students the opportunity to learn to read the words accurately and ultimately more fluently.

It is during the modeling step that the students make sound-symbol connections and actually learn the words in the story. If the stories were read at a normal speaking rate, students would not be able to read along with the recording and thus would not build word recognition and accuracy.

Once the students have learned to accurately read the words during the read along step, they build fluency by reading the passage many times during the practice step.

When Read Naturally passages were rerecorded in 2011, the third reading was done at an expressive rate. The passages are recorded at a pace at which developing readers are able to actually read along during the teacher modeling step. Christopher Skinner, a reading development researcher, has done two studies confirming the value of the slower modeling found in the Read Naturally recordings.

In 1993, Skinner, Adamson, et al. found that slower rates of modeled reading resulted in lower error rates when compared to baseline data (study published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities in 1993).

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis in 1997, Skinner, Cooper, and Cole found that the accuracy of students’ reading was better after slower modeled reading than after faster modeled reading. The slower rates of modeled reading in the study were between 44 and 66 words per minute. These reading rates are actually slower than the rates used on the Read Naturally recordings.

4. How does Read Naturally level the stories?

The main goals for leveling the new and revised Encore II stories were to ensure that:

  • Stories within each level are at a similar level of difficulty to each other.
  • Each level is an appropriate step up in difficulty from the level below it (and a clear and appropriate step down in difficulty from the one above it).

These goals are important because consistency of readability within each level allows students to select stories in the order they choose, which helps to keep them interested and motivated. It also gives them the opportunity to build fluency and confidence at one level before progressing to another. And, once students are ready to move to more challenging material, it is important that the subsequent level indeed provides suitably more difficult text to support their incremental growth.

Consequently, Read Naturally employs a number of readability formulas (listed below) in conjunction with the judgment of its writing and teaching professionals to keep the difficulty of the stories in each level within a range of about a half a year of one another and the levels properly spaced according to difficulty.

Readability Formulas Generally Used
(most since first publication of the levels in question, with the more recent addition of Lexiles)

  • Lexile® reader measures for all levels of Read Naturally Encore II.
  • Fry and Spache readability formulas for levels 0.8 through 2.7.
  • Harris-Jacobson readability formula for levels 3.0 through 5.0.
  • Dale Chall readability formula for levels 5.6 and above.

It is important to remember that while the named levels of Encore II stories (like stories in other Read Naturally series) do generally correspond to grade levels (with the name of the level falling within the approximately half-year range used for the level), students should not be placed in the program according to how those levels correspond to their actual grade levels. The placement steps detailed in this manual provide the best method for ensuring maximum effectiveness for students.

5. Do the Read Naturally reading levels correspond to grade levels?

Our levels do generally correspond to the grade levels they are named for in that the readability scores for the stories in each level fall within the approximately half-year range used for the level.

However, this does not mean that stories in our 2.0 grade level, for example, are appropriate for all early second graders. Rather, the 2.0 level is appropriate for students of any age who should be placed in reading material at an early second grade level.

It is important to use the placement procedure to place students in the Read Naturally program. Proper placement is essential to provide the students with the right balance of challenge and success. And keep in mind that, because of the audio support, students often work a half year above their instructional reading level.

6. Why are all of the stories nonfiction?

Repeated reading is best done with interesting, nonfiction material. The ideal length of stories for modeling and repeated reading is 100–400 words, which is also a good length for a nonfiction passage on a specific topic, such as an animal, place, or famous person. Most good fiction stories require more than 100–400 words.

Nonfiction stories also appeal to readers of all ages. Struggling readers are reading below grade level. You might have a third grader, a fifth grader, and an adult all reading the same second-grade level material. So, the stories must be interesting enough to appeal to many readers and not appear too young or immature, regardless of the level of vocabulary in the story.

Read Naturally stories present new information about unusual animals, people, inventions, etc., and as students do repeated readings, they increase their knowledge base and share it with parents, in class discussions, etc. It is motivating for students to share the interesting information they've learned from the topics.

Nonfiction can also encourage students who have not previously enjoyed reading to want to read more about a particular subject that interests them—so they not only enjoy learning to read but also begin to enjoy reading to learn.

7. How do your stories line up with lists such as Fry's most frequent words list?

Many teachers are familiar with Fry's list of the 1000 most frequently used words in the English language. Read Naturally passages are made up of a high percentage of these words. For example, 96 percent of the words that make up the stories in level 1.0 are on the 1000 most frequent words list.

At the same time, Read Naturally believes that it is important to continually challenge students. Therefore, as the Read Naturally levels get higher, so do the number of words that do not appear on Fry's most frequent words list. The highest Read Naturally levels are made up of around 87 to 89 percent of the words on the most frequent words list.

These numbers dip from the 96 percent correlation of the lower levels, but appropriately so. As students are able to read in the higher levels, they are generally more knowledgeable of most of the 1000 frequent words and need to learn language that is much richer and more powerful. We want to continue to increasingly challenge students to grow and to expand their vocabulary in these higher levels. Therefore, Read Naturally passages provide a good balance of the most frequent words and less frequent words for students to practice.

Also, keep in mind that because the Read Naturally stories are nonfiction, a number of the words that do not appear on Fry's list are the proper names of famous people and places.

8. What student-teacher ratio works best with Read Naturally Strategy programs?

Read Naturally Strategy programs are best implemented with a student-to-teacher ratio of six students per adult. The ratio for Read Live can be raised to eight students per adult, but six students is optimal. Not all of the adults need to be teachers. Teacher-trained educational assistants, parents, or other adult volunteers can help run a Read Naturally Strategy program.

If many students are placed in the Phonics series, a lower student-to-teacher ratio may be needed, because the word list requires extra time during the Pass step.

9. How does the Read Naturally standard for accuracy in the hot timing prepare students for the DIBELS Next expectations for accuracy on oral reading fluency (ORF) assessments?

In addition to benchmark rate goals (wcpm) for ORF, DIBELS Next specifies accuracy expectations for different grade levels at different times of the year in their technical report. Because Read Naturally interventions require a high standard of accuracy (no more than three errors at the pass step), students’ awareness of the importance of accuracy is raised. Read Naturally’s attention to accuracy prepares students to be mindful of accuracy on their oral reading fluency assessments as well. Read Naturally's standard of accuracy actually surpasses the DIBELS Next expectation for accuracy on oral reading fluency assessments.


Please let us know what questions you have so we can assist. For Technical Support, please call us or submit a software support request.

Click to refresh image