Reading. It is a love/hate subject in this house. The two older ones LOVE to read; I love to read, my husband is a reader. Hunter? Not so much. Honestly, with the way he strives to avoid it, you would think asking him to read was something that induced cardiac arrest or something.
I know he is below grade level. I know he is embarrassed to read out loud in front of others. He hears the difference in the way other kids read and the way that he reads. I know that he trips over seemingly small, easy words and then one word later can spit out a 7 syllable word flawlessly. We read together. We have tried online reading programs. We do summer reading programs, we bribe him to read with Pizza and Ice Cream…. and still he avoids it. He struggles, and it breaks my heart.
I would say that my main goal as his teacher is to obtain reading fluency. I am aware that the only way to obtain that is to read more. To practice, practice, practice. In this house, reading out loud is an event. We do accents and voices for characters, make funny faces, gesture wildly as we read our books. My goal is to read something to my children in a way that is expressive and makes the words live, breathe and dance in their minds as they listen. I am not saying that he has to read out loud the way that I do, I just want him to be able to read more comfortably, less robotic…. ya know?
So I wrestle with wanting to help him and some days not even knowing how or what it is that is making things “hiccup”, knowing that he is capable if we can keep up the consistent practice and trying to balance that need for practice, practice, practice into the busy life of a family of 6. It’s hard. Some days I cry in the shower with frustration….. Some days, I am not so patient as we practice.
Then, a while back I was told there was going to be a reading program up for review. My initial gut reaction was “so what?”, but I prayed about it…. and told them I was interested in trying it out. They said they wanted struggling readers. I could at least give them a struggling reader! Really, the main thing I wanted out of the program was the assessment. I knew he was behind, just not how much, and if I could find out just where he was then we could go on from there.
I would be lying if I told you that I was all gung-ho the moment the program arrived. I was apathetic, unwilling to put hope in the possibility that this program, Read Live Naturally, was going to be the lynch-pin to success for our reading issues. I knew it was set up for use primarily for classrooms and I knew that the price point of $149.00 a year would be something our family budget would not normally be able to absorb. I was secretly very afraid it would help, a LOT, and then I would be stuck, never able to afford something that was finally working.
So with a little trepidation I set up the account. That process is not so intuitive, it is sure geared to brick and mortar institutions, but I survived. Thank goodness for tutorials!
We began at the beginning with the assessment. We started at the lowest level and just kept going up, each time we did a reading, the program suggested going up a level. When it was all said and done, it was recommended we work at a 3.5 level. I felt a glimmer of hope. In the fourth grade he was a a 3.5 level. Not as low of a score as I had anticipated. Propelled by the success of the assessment, we dove in to the program itself, with a fair amount of gusto.
How it works:
You begin with a cold timing. The student chooses one of 12 passages to read, and they receive a score based on how many words they read in a minute. The program introduces and defines key words for each story. There is also a place that a child can answer vocabulary words while they wait for the teacher to come over and begin the timing.
There is a highlighted bar that helps the student stay “on line” with where they are reading. This feature of highlighting continues as you practice reading along with the program. During the read along the highlights change to blue on the sentence being read. The stories are interesting and informative. I find myself learning things as I listen. Even my high school kids will pause and get lost in the story as it is being read out loud.
Initially the program is set to a default of 3 required read along episodes. This number can be increased based on what you feel the child needs. Other adjustable options are: timing based on the whole story OR only on the words read per minute, amount of time allowed for some of the quiz questions, and goal levels. At the outset we used the defaults. Hunter would get a cold time score of around 40-45 words a minute. After reading along just three times, his hot timing would improve to 85+ words in one minute. I decided after a time that I wanted to see what would happen if we had to read the whole story, since reading is an activity that we want to read more than just one minute at a time. He is still successful at meeting his 80 words a minute goal.
At first I wondered how much this was really helping. It seemed like he was just memorizing and repeating the words. I didn’t want a mimic, I want a reader. So I went on a quest to find out WHY this program teaches reading the way that it does.
I found that it is the very act of mimicry that is helping him. By reading to him expressively, I was doing the right thing…. where I was missing the boat so to speak was in having him read it after me. I was not affording him the opportunity to see the words and hear them read correctly. To be honest, the reason I never did that was because there were some days where I would just get frustrated! He would miss words that he had just read correctly three sentences ago and I couldn’t figure out how to address the fact that what he was saying wrong, was always something different.
This program is calm with him, steady and fluid, every time. He can work independently, reading and practicing at his own pace. If he wants to leave, the program will take him right back to where he was when he logs in next. The independent working factor is huge. He does not feel overwhelmed because there isn’t anyone listening to him to correct him. I am not the one doing any correcting. He has the power to click a word that he doesn’t know and hear it said for him…. The only thing I am required to do by the program is to begin the cold timing and the hot timing, and to assess his quizzes and other comprehension exercises.
Since Hunter can’t type well and there is a time limit on a few of the typing areas, I let him narrate to me the summaries. He has no trouble comprehending, just in typing the words he wants to as fast as he would like.
As I prepared to write this review, I asked Hunter what he thought about Read Live Naturally. This is what he said, “It has helped. It is a fun way to read. I feel like it helps me to take in words and read them faster, so that it doesn’t take me so long to read other things. I like it better than being handed a 10 chapter book to read, that feels impossible. These stories are smaller and that makes it easier to do.”
Now the ball is fully in my court. I need to decide whether to purchase it at the end of December. I need to spend some time talking with my husband and we need to decide if continuing with this program is worth the investment of $149.00 for 12 months. If money were no object, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second, I have enjoyed using it, but when you have to stretch pennies, the decision becomes more difficult. Part of me really thinks we can’t afford NOT to purchase it. The product works, there is no denying that. It is helping him in a way that I can not. I am human and fallible and my frustrations shine through from time to time. Having this program would remove my frustrations from the equation and help encourage him to success. I just need to think of it in terms of Food for his future and we can eat some rice and beans for belly food that month, maybe walk a few places if it isn’t too snowy to save on gas…..
Members of the TOS Crew were given the opportunity to review either Read Live Naturally, or the company’s other product One Minute Reader. If reading is something that your child struggles with and you want to help them at home in a homeschool setting or as a supplement to another educational choice, please visit the Review Blog and see what other families are saying about these products. Additionally, the Read Naturally website: http://www.readnaturally.com/index.htm, has so much information about reading and how to help your child excel. Head on over there to see how their products can help improve your child’s reading experiences.
****disclaimer**** As a member of the TOS Review Crew I was given access to Read Live Naturally, free of charge, for a limited time, solely for the purpose of this review. All of the above experiences and opinions above are based on our usage of their product within our homeschool environment. No other compensation has been received. Thank you Read Naturally for providing us with access to your product.