Reading fluency is the ability to read accurately, smoothly and with expression. Fluent readers recognize words automatically, without struggling over decoding issues. When reading silently, in addition to recognizing words automatically, fluent readers group words rapidly to help gain meaning from their reading, which then translates into their understanding of the text. When reading aloud, fluent readers sound natural, as if they’re speaking. Non-fluent readers read slowly and sound choppy. Fluency is important because it builds a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. It allows students time to focus on what the text is saying. They are able to make connections between what they are reading and their own background knowledge. Therefore, they are able to concentrate on comprehension. On the other hand, non-fluent readers have to spend more time decoding, leaving less time for comprehending the text. Due to mistakes made when reading, they will often have to read the same passage over several times to attain comprehension. In addition, non-fluent readers often do no read with expression.
Even when students recognize words automatically, they are not fluent if they don’t read with expression. To read with expression a student should be able to divide a word into chunks, using proper phrasing. Not paying attention to punctuation often changes the meaning of the text. For example:
The children, without their toys, feel sad.
The children without their, toys feel sad.
Fortunately, reading fluency can be taught. It is important for adults to read aloud to children, modeling what good readers do. Show children how you pause for punctuation and change your voice to make text more meaningful. Children should be read to by their teachers, by their parents, and by their relatives. The more models of fluent reading children hear the better.
Next, it is important for children to practice, engaging them in repeated reading. Text should be easy to read and relatively short. There are several ways children can practice fluent reading;
- Child/adult reading – The adult models, then the student practices.
- Choral reading – reading in unison.
- Assisted reading – reading along with a recorded text.
- Partner reading – reading along with another child
- Reader’s Theatre – playing characters, as in a play.
Assessing progress is easy and most children think it’s fun. Children love when you take out a stop watch and time them. Pick a passage on the proper reading level, time for 1 minute and graph the results. After several practices on the same text, time again. The children see immediate progress and become motivated to become more fluent readers.
In conclusion, reading fluency is the ability to read accurately and quickly. It is important because fluent readers comprehend better. It can be developed by modeling and practice.
By Fran Nieporent, Private Tutor