In our previous blogs, we discussed the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics development for pre-emergent, emergent, and beginning readers. While understanding and manipulating phonemes and decoding are both essential skills, children must move beyond them to become proficient readers. A critical development in the reading process is fluency.
Fluency is the ability to read words accurately with both speed and expression. When a child is able to read fluently, their reading should sound natural. The words should flow well, and the child will use appropriate expression and intonation when reading aloud.
If a child is not a fluent reader, their reading will sound choppy. They may get stuck on certain words or have to read parts of the text multiple times. Their reading will lack expression; questions, statements, and exclamations will be read with the same monotone intonation. They will disregard punctuation and pause at awkward spots in the text.
So, why is fluency an issue? Without fluency, it is tough to move from just decoding words to reading and understanding an entire passage. Fluency is the bridge between word recognition and comprehension. When children read with fluency, they do not spend mental energy on decoding words. Hence, they are able to focus on the passage meaning. If children do not develop reading fluency, comprehension will become difficult, and their ability to read at grade level will suffer.
If you are not sure if your child struggles with reading fluency, ask yourself a few key questions. First of all, does your child take a disproportionately long time to read a short passage both aloud and silently? Does your child’s reading sound labored and choppy? Does their reading lack expression? Does your child have trouble understanding what they read? Does your child self-correct many words read in the passage? If you answered yes, it is possible your child has difficulty with fluent reading.
If you suspect your child is having difficulty with reading fluently, there are a few things you can do at home to try to help. If your child seems to get lost in text easily, frequently having trouble keeping their place, have them try print tracking. Using a finger or some kind of pointer, have your child follow along with the words they are reading so they do not get lost.
Secondly, have your child read the text aloud more than once. The first time focus on decoding and then with repeated readings focus on fluency, particularly accuracy and expression. This activity is helpful because with repeated readings, the struggle to decode should diminish and your child can concentrate on reading fluently. While your child reads aloud, provide constructive feedback when errors are made.
Practice choral reading. Initially, read aloud to your child to model fluent reading while having them follow along in the book. Next, reread the book and invite your child to read any words he recognizes you are reading. Read the same book three to five times, however, not on the same day using this choral reading practice. Soon, your child should be able to read the story independently.
Use poetry or other books with clear rhythmic patterns. This can help your child hear the natural rhythm of the text, making it easier to read fluently. You can also try giving your child short phrases to read and asking them to read them as a statement, question, and exclamation to practice reading with expression.
If you notice that these activities are not helping your child, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to get them professional assistance. Reading fluency is paramount to becoming a proficient reader and without it, it is unlikely that your child will make the progress necessary to go from learning to read versus reading to learn. With an escalating amount of reading each grade level, your child may quickly fall behind.
Our Structured Literacy online program incorporates reading fluency into each and every session. With repeated readings, sentence and phrase reading, and developing fluency in longer texts, we can help your child become the fluent reader they need to be.
Our trained Reading Clinicians understand how reading fluency develops and have multiple strategies to help nurture and expand this skill. They will help you make sure that your child develops the fluency needed to help them succeed in becoming a life-long reader.
If you have concerns about your child’s reading fluency or any other area, contact us today to find out how our online tutoring program can help your child flourish.
Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.