What Is Reading Fluency?
Reading fluency is the ability to read quickly, accurately, and effortlessly while using expression. Fluency is just as important of a skill as understanding phonics (knowing the letters and their sounds), knowing sight words, and comprehending what is read.
Readers who are successful with fluency can concentrate on comprehension because they don’t have to focus on figuring out the words.
Below is a list of strategies to help your child or student(s) become fluent readers (be sure to pick passages that spark your students’ interest):
Side-Note: All the strategies below can be done with a parent and child or teacher and students. You can also pair an older child with a younger child, or a higher level reader with a lower level reader to practice these techniques.
Be sure you pick a child who will be sensitive to a struggling reader. If you have any concerns about the child or tutor you chose, make adjustments.
1. Read Aloud to Your Child/Student
If your child can hear examples of fluent reading they are more likely to understand how to apply fluency in their own reading. Read out loud to your child often and with expression.
In order to read fluently, students must first hear and understand what fluent reading sounds like. Text can come from books, magazines, the internet, or anywhere you can find interesting reading material for your child. Talk to your child about what fluency means.
After you read to them, have them share their thoughts on exactly what you did that made your reading sound fluent. This will help ingrain the meaning of fluency into their memory, making them more likely to think about fluency when working on their own reading.
To read about the research on the benefits of reading aloud to children see A Synthesis of Fluency Interventions for Secondary Struggling Readers.
2. Use Choral Reading
- Choose a short passage that your child or students can read independently (although they may have trouble with fluency they should be able to recognize most of the words without spending too much time sounding them out).
- If you are a teacher, have a copy for yourself and a copy for your class or group. You also might want to put the passage on an overhead projector for the whole class to see. If you are a parent, have a copy for yourself and your child.
- Next, read the passage out loud for your child/students to hear. Tell them to follow along with their finger as you read.
- After reading the passage, re-read it and have your child/students read along with you, trying to match your speed and expression.
To read about the research on choral reading see Fluency in the Classroom.
3. Use Echo Reading
Echo Reading is similar to Choral Reading except you read the passage first aloud, and then have the child/students echo (or copy) you, by rereading the passage out loud trying to match the way you just read it. In choral reading, you re-read the passage with the students, while in Echo Reading, they read it themselves the second time. Find out what the research says about the effects of echo reading on reading fluency.
Check Out The Video Below On Choral and Echo Reading!
4. Use Repeated Reading
Remind your child of the criteria for fluency (quickly, accurately, with expression). Have them pick a topic they enjoy. Then find them or have them find a short passage on that topic.
Read the passage to them to show him what it sounds like to read the passage fluently. Then have them re-read the passage several times, out loud and in their mind on their own over a period of time, until they feel they have developed fluency in reading that passage.
You can have your child/student practice in front of you a few times first just to get them started and talk about strengths and areas that need improvement. Have your child/student read the passage for you again, once they believe they have mastered fluency.
If they still have difficulty, talk to them again about their strengths and areas of need. Have them continue to practice on their own and read it for you again once they feel they have mastered the errors.
Repeat the cycle until you feel your child/student has mastered fluency of the passage to the best of their ability. After mastering one passage, have them choose more topics of interest and apply the same strategy to those passages. To check out the research see Building Fluency through the Repeated Reading Method.
5. Use a Rapid Word Recognition Chart
Create a sight word recognition chart. For example, have four rows, with five words per row. Have the child read the words in the rows as quickly as possible, providing assistance when needed.
Keep practicing until your child can automatically recognize all the words without sounding them out. Reverse the order of the cards and practice again.
It is important to reverse the order to ensure your child is reading the words and not simply reciting the order of the cards from memory.
You can use a pocket chart to make your rows of words, as shown below:
To read more about the research on Rapid Word Recognition Charts see Improving Reading Fluency.
Recognizing sight words is a critical skill for improving reading fluency. For more strategies on helping children learn sight words see our article Five Fun Activities to Teach Your Child Sight Words.
6. Read and Listen at the Same Time
Here are two free websites that allow children to read along and listen at the same time:
7. Encourage Independent Reading About Topics of Interest
Encourage your child to read independently as often as possible. Allow them to choose topics that interest them. If your child/student is open to it, encourage them to tell you what they read about.
You might ask them what happened in the story, who the main characters were, where the story took place, what they thought of the story, etc. Don’t do this every time as you want your child to have some independent reading time for pure joy, where they will not feel pressured to have to answer questions at the end. Mix it up (about 50/50).
For more about the research-based effects of independent reading see Independent Reading and School Achievement.
Keep in mind that the strategies in this article are recommendations. Please do not try to pressure a child into participating in any of these strategies. This can lead to frustration, which can turn your child off to fluency practice.
Remember to always stay calm when working with a child or student, even if you think they should be getting something that they are not getting. If you get frustrated with them, they may start to feel anxious, angry, inferior, stupid, etc. which will lead to a less productive learning session.
Keep practice sessions short (5 to 10 minutes for younger children or children who get easily frustrated and 10 to 15 minutes for older children or children who can work for longer periods without frustration), unless the child is eager to keep going.
For suggestions on ways to encourage children to complete tasks or assignments they do not want to do, see 3 Ways to Use Timers to Encourage Homework and Chore Completion and How to Use Schedules to Improve Children’s Behavior.
Also, remember that some children respond to several of these strategies, others respond to a few, and some may not respond to any. If your child is significantly struggling with reading fluency or acquiring other academic skills, despite consistent practice and guidance, talk to your child’s school and/or doctor.
They should be able to refer you to the appropriate professionals to determine what might be interfering with your child’s progress and what additional strategies might help.
Video Presentation on 7 Research-Based Strategies to Improve Reading Fluency
You may also wish to review the following reading programs, geared towards younger students, and developed from research-based practices:
- The Reading Head Start Program
- The Children Learning Reading Program
- Reading with TLC
- Reading Eggs (Online/Interactive)
- Pride Reading Program (Orton Gillingham)
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Rachel Wise is a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist with a Master’s Degree in Education. She is also the head author and CEO at educationandbehavior.com, a site for parents, caregivers, educators, counselors, and therapists to find effective, research-based strategies that work for children. Rachel has been working with individuals with academic and behavioral needs for over 20 years and has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and the adults who support them. For Rachel’s top behavioral strategies all in one place, check out her book, Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children, a Guide for Parents and Teachers. If you want Rachel to write for your business, offer behavioral or academic consultation, or speak at your facility about research-based strategies that support children, email her at email@example.com.