Read Naturally is a company that helps students become better readers. Their programs focus on "five essential components of reading, identified by the National Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension." They do this through "structured intervention programs (which) combine teacher modeling, repeated reading, and progress monitoring — three strategies that research has shown are effective in improving students' reading proficiency."
The program which we received to review is called Read Live, and this is how it works. First, it's a web-based program, so I went to the login, and entered my account information. Because this is also used by entire schools, the process for first setting up your child is a little cumbersome, but detailed instructions were provided, and I managed to get it right the first time. If you know me, and my track record with technology, that should tell you it's not too hard! Next, your child takes an assessment of their reading (you chose the initial level for the assessment, and then go up or down from there depending on how they do- knowing my daughter's reading struggles well, I guessed her level right off and the assessment confirmed that). Then, after you have chosen the right reading level, your child begins the program.
The pros: I have my 12 year old daughter using this program. She has always enjoyed audio books, but has never been a strong reader. In fact, based on words per minute, she tested in the 4th grade level on her assessment. Her reading goal is 100 words per minute. Her first cold timing score was 83 wpm. Her hot timing for that story was 132 wpm. That's quite an improvement! And I'm watching her do a little better each time. Three times now, her cold timing score has exceeded her 100 wpm goal...and her hot timing score the last two times has been in the 150-160 range. Yes, 160! That's almost twice her original cold timing! She is learning to read more quickly, but most importantly, she is becoming a more expressive reader. Other things I really like about the program, besides the success we have personally experienced, is that when the student hits the a point where they need the teacher, the program gives them fun vocabulary quizzes to work on while they wait. And I love the reports that are available for the teacher to let them see exactly how the student is doing. Oh, and the stories. I love that, at least on my daughter's level, they are science based, and focus on different types of animals. So it's like reading and science rolled into one.
The cons: Let me start with a few petty ones. First, there is a bar that highlights the reading line for the student. It can be turned off, but my daughter likes to use it. However, to move it down as you read, you must use the mouse, and the bar does not extend very far to the left or right of the text, so the mouse cursor tends to block the text on the edge as you try to move the bar down. Second, my daughter doesn't love the person who does the reading, but that's probably a personal thing. Third, when you do the cold timing, the program pronounces any word that you click on so that it can offer prompts to the student if they are stuck on a word. But you also are meant to click on words they miss, and my daughter found it distracting that each word she missed the voice then felt it necessary to read for her. That slowed my daughter down. So we solved that by having her remove the headphones when she does the cold timing, so she doesn't hear the voice. The only have two major cons. The first would be the price of the program. I'm sure $149 a child for 12 months is not cost prohibitive for a school, but for homeschoolers, that's a lot of money! Schools get volume discounts that can actually drop the price per student to $15.38 each, but homeschoolers don't really have that option, because most families wouldn't ever even need the 6 student "seats" required for the first discount level. The second would be that my daughter becomes obsessed with reading quickly to increases her words per minute-sometimes to the point of sacrificing her expression and fluency. I have to actually tell her to slow down and read well, not just read fast.
The bottom line: So far, I'm very impressed with Read Live. And I intend to have my daughter use it every day until our subscription expires. Then I will have a tough decision to make. I wish- I really, truly wish- that there was homeschool pricing that made Read Live a more cost effective option. If it was $49 instead of $149, I know I'd continue it. But for now, I'll have to see what the next few weeks bring. For you, my readers, though, there is an opportunity to perhaps try Read Live for free for 60 days. If you go HERE, and you have a "recognized homeschool", you can try it out. I'd encourage you to do just that if you have a struggling reader in your home. You won't regret it!
To learn more about Read Naturally and the other programs they have to offer, go HERE. To see what the other members of the TOS Crew had to say about Read Live or about One Minute Readers, go HERE.
Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free membership for Read Live until the end of the year. That membership was for the purpose of providing this review and was the only compensation I received.