Monday, January 29, 2007

The Read Naturally Program

We recently heard about the Read Naturally Program and wanted to share the following.

Research into the program revealed that the "Read Naturally" program focuses on "fluency", it makes use of "repeated reading" of the same material to develop a steady relaxed pace in reading.

To learn to read children and people need to learn the mechanics of reading.

With some help of a friend with much experience in the subject we learned.

"The constructivist view of reading is that it is "natural" and should be therefore taught as though it were as natural as speaking. But it's not. Reading requires instruction and learning of a specific skill: decoding."

"I checked the "What Works Clearinghouse" of the USDOE to see what they had."

"Read Naturally" was reported having only a single study that could be said to be research-based. And that study had kind of a screwy design, had very few kids involved, and was limited to Spanish-speaking English language learners. Worse, in that one study, WWC reports:

" Read Naturally was found to have no discernible effects on elementary school ELL students' reading achievement."

"Reading achievement. Denton and colleagues (2004) reported, and the WWC confirmed, no statistically significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups on students' reading achievement. In addition, the average effect size was small and deemed not substantively important. Therefore, the one study reviewed showed no discernible effects."

Sounds like a loser!

Thanks to our friend Kevin Killion of the
for helping us with research into the "Read Naturally Program.

As our friend stated this program sounds like a loser school districts should only consider proven curricula that is well tested and not fade learning programs for the critical years of learning. A good source for them would be "What Works Clearinghouse" of the USDOE.

Many teachers and others have made millions of dollars off of taxpayers and on the backs of our children's education by introducing fade programs such as the read naturally program. Parents and taxpayers need to be attuned to this, our children's education and futures are too important to be wasted on fade programs.

Quote of the Day

"IT IS, IN FACT, NOTHING short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe that it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly. "--Albert Einstein


Jerry said...

The Read Naturally program you commented on at Citizens for Reasonable and Fair Taxes was started in 1991 and has had tremendous success at accelerating the reading achievement of developing and struggling readers by combining the research proven strategies of teacher modeling, repeated reading and progress monitoring.

At Read Naturally’s website ( you will see a sample of the comments that demonstrate the enthusiasm teachers and students have for the Read Naturally strategy. In addition, there are numerous studies in the Research and Rationale section verifying the effectiveness of the Read Naturally strategy.

The Read Naturally program is very cost effective because of its low cost, reproducible materials and independent nature that allows teachers and teacher assistants to supervise up to 12 students at a time.

The posting at Citizens for Reasonable and Fair Taxes was perceptive in noting that reading is not natural and that reading requires direct instruction. Read Naturally was named to describe how a student could read a passage after following the Read Naturally steps.

The posting was also accurate in labeling the Denton study a screwy design. The study, “The Effects of Two Tutoring Programs on the English Reading Development of Spanish-English Bilingual Students” published in the Elementary School Journal in 2004 used Read Naturally passages but not the Read Naturally strategy:

1. The Denton study’s use of audio tapes was inconsistent – when the tutors, volunteer undergraduate students read to the students it would have been likely that the passages would be read at less than optimal rates. Also, they would not have had rate increase from the first to second read along and increase again from the second to third read along.
2. The Denton study’s inclusion of oral discussion sessions of vocabulary and comprehension in the process would have reduced the time spent reading.
3. The Denton study’s inclusion of vocabulary activities such as flash cards and pre-reading in the process would also have reduced the time spent reading.
4. The students in the Denton study were not held accountable to Read Naturally’s four criteria to pass (reach goal rate, 3 or fewer errors, read with good expression and answer all the questions correctly). Students were not required to go back and master any of the criteria they failed on the first pass attempt.

Shortcomings of Denton Study Assessments

In addition to making substantial changes to the Read Naturally strategy, two of the three measures the Denton study used to evaluate student performance are not areas that Read Naturally claims to address. The Denton study used word identification from a list as one of the assessment tools. This is not part of the Read Naturally strategy. Instead, the Read Naturally strategy, if implemented correctly will improve fluency (rate, accuracy and expression) of reading words in context.

The second assessment measure, phonemic decoding, is also not part of the Read Naturally strategy and consequently even if the Read Naturally strategy would have been implemented correctly it would not have impacted phonemic decoding.

The What Works Clearinghouse titled its review Read Naturally, in spite of the fact that the study did not use the prescribed Read Naturally strategy and that 67% of the assessment was in areas that Read Naturally does not claim to address.

The third assessment component was comprehension. The comprehension assessment in the study was also flawed because there are no comprehension assessment tools that are sensitive enough to note improvements in only a ten week period.

Also, even though Read Naturally is regarded as the best fluency building program on the market that also improves comprehension and vocabulary, the study did not assess the fluency improvement of the students in the study.

What Works Clearinghouse has pulled its review of the Denton Study.

Tom Ihnot

Jan said...

After using Read Naturally for a school year with primarily bilingual first graders, I am extremely impressed with the increase in fluency rates I have seen and the interest in reading.
I have seen significant increases in wpm rates as well as ability to read naturally in very short periods of time, one little boy starte in January at 9 wpm in level 1.0 and by March was reading 39 wpm on the cold and 53 on the rehearsed after 3 days with excellent comprehension.

Dorothy said...

I have used the Read Naturally program for the past 5 years with students who have learning disabilities, primarily reading disabilities, and have seen tremendous success with students often jumping 2-3 grade levels in a year. From my experience, it has failed no one. Everyone who has been on the program has made significant progress. I teach in a private school for students with learning difficulties. Dorothy Abelson