There are many components that are addressed under the umbrella of reading. Phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension are usually the main components that are rigorously addressed in school. There is one area, fluency, that usually gets overlooked. Many times, teachers and parents are so focused on word recognition and comprehension, that fluency is not a skill that is explicitly addressed.
Children who read fluently are typically more confident and read with greater independence than non-fluent readers. These are children who oftentimes read for enjoyment, not out of necessity. When children are fluent readers, this helps greatly with comprehension. This is because a child will be able to focus on the meaning of words/sentences and not different decoding strategies.
So what is fluency? This is essentially the ability to not only read the words correctly but read with a rate that is appropriate and has correct intonation and expression. Many times we may call fluent reading “smooth” reading. As a teacher and a parent, I often times try to have children reread sentences multiple times when practicing fluency. This will allow the child to practice their “smoothness”.
So how does your child become a fluent reader? This starts from the very beginning. Children need to have strong phonemic awareness skills, understand to blend and recognize irregular words to become a strong reader. At the end of first grade, students should be reading about 60 words per minute, 90-100 words by the end of second grade, and over 115 words per minute by the end of third grade. With this, word complexity also grows with difficulty for each grade level.
When students are learning about what it means to be a fluent reader, they oftentimes think that a fast reader is a good reader. This is not quite true. Many times children think it is a race to get through a page or a passage and their language almost becomes incomprehensible. Rather than racing through a page, it is best to encourage students to read like they speak. When we talk with our friends, we don’t speed talk – we make sure that our message is understood and that we are clearly heard.
Here are some ways you can practice reading fluency with your child at home:
Repeated Readings: Have your child practice a short passage multiple times. You can turn this into a game and have your child try to beat their words per minute score with each attempt.
Echo Reading: Read a passage to your child and have him/her listen to your intonation and expression. Give your child an opportunity to “copy” you and read in the same way.
Audio Recordings: Record your child reading and have him/her listen to the recording. Try this a few times and have your child make observations with each attempt.
Read to a Stuffed Animal or a Pet: You may be surprised but there are many programs that are offered where children can snuggle up with a good book and read to dogs!
Character Voice: You can have your child read using the voice of their favorite character.
What are some of your favorite ways to practice fluency with your child?