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Reading Fluency Handout for Parents

Fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. In order to understand what they read, children must be able to read fluently whether they are reading aloud or silently. When reading aloud, fluent readers read in phrases and add intonation appropriately. Their reading is smooth and has expression. (Reading

Fluent readers:

  • Recognize words automatically and

  • Are able to group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read.

Readers who lack fluency:

Struggle as they spend much of their time figuring out individual words.  This impairs comprehension during reading.

Fluency styles must change depending on text.  Consider the variation of reading in these texts:

  • Informational text

  • Fiction

  • Poetry

  • Plays

Components of Fluent Reading Include:

Speed:  This refers to the rate of reading usually determined in words per minute (WPM) or words correct per minute (WCPM).

Accuracy: In word recognition, this focuses on a reader’s ability to correctly identify words on the first attempt.

Expression: This is when a student uses phrasing, tone, and pitch so oral reading sounds conversational.

Comprehension: This is when a student understands what is being read and understands that the goal of reading is to construct meaning.

So: Fluency can also change depending on:

  • The text,

  • The reader’s familiarity with the words, and

  • How much practice the reader has had with reading text.

Recommendations for effective instruction: One of the best ways to improve fluency is to read a text repeatedly, under the guidance of a teacher, specialist, volunteer or even a peer. The National Reading Panel (2000) notes that repeated oral reading substantially improves fluency by enhancing word recognition, speed, and accuracy; to a lesser extent, it aids reading comprehension. Repeated oral reading should involve a text that is fairly short (50–200 words) and contains words students know or can decode easily so they can focus on fluency without spending time on word recognition.

Repeated oral reading, suggests is one of the few instructional strategies that works to improve the reading ability of students in the elementary school years and struggling readers in higher grades.

Oral reading can take many forms: Student-adult reading: Students read one-on-one with an adult (a teacher, parent, classroom aide, or tutor). The adult reads a passage first, serving as a model of fluent reading. The student then reads the same passage to the adult, receiving guidance and support from the adult. The student rereads the passage until the reading is quite fluent, usually after three or four re-readings.

Choral reading: In choral, or unison, reading, students read along as a group with a teacher or another fluent adult reader. This requires sharing a book, using a “big book” that the whole group can see, or supplying copies to every student in the group. Again, modeling is important here, with the teacher or other adult reading aloud and students invited to join in where they know the words. “Students should read the book with you three to five times total (though not necessarily on the same day),”  “At this time, students should be able to read the text independently.”

  •  Tape-assisted reading: In this approach, students read along in their books as they hear a fluent reader read the book on an audiotape. Books should be at student’s independent reading level, and teachers should have students follow along the first time they listen, then read along on the second and subsequent readings. “Reading along with the tape should continue until the student is able to read the book independently, without the support of the tape.

Partner reading: Students are paired—typically with more fluent readers partnered with less fluent readers—and take turns reading aloud to each other. Again, the stronger reader models by reading a paragraph or page first, and the less-fluent reader follows. Alternatively, children who read at the same level can be paired to reread a story after learning about it during a teacher-guided part of the lesson. In either case, the partners help each other read.

  • Round robin reading: Students take turns reading parts of a text aloud, though not necessarily repeatedly. The National Reading Panel found this approach ineffective in increasing fluency, because students read only small portions of text and spend too much time waiting for others to read.  

Try These Tips from Reading Rockets:

How to Help

With the help of parents and teachers, kids can learn strategies to cope with fluency issues that affect his or her reading. Below are some tips and specific things to do.

What kids can do to help themselves

  • Track the words with your finger as a parent or teacher reads a passage aloud. Then you read it.

  • Have a parent or teacher read aloud to you. Then, match your voice to theirs.

  • Read your favorite books and poems over and over again. Practice getting smoother and reading with expression.

What parents can do to help at home

  • Support and encourage your child. Realize that he or she is likely frustrated by reading.

  • Check with your child's teachers to find out their assessment of your child's word decoding skills.

  • If your child can decode words well, help him or her build speed and accuracy by:

    • Reading aloud and having your child match his voice to yours

    • Having your child practice reading the same list of words, phrase, or short passages several times

    • Reminding your child to pause between sentences and phrases

  • Read aloud to your child to provide an example of how fluent reading sounds.

  • Give your child books with predictable vocabulary and clear rhythmic patterns so the child can "hear" the sound of fluent reading as he or she reads the book aloud.

  • Use books on tapes; have the child follow along in the print copy.

What teachers can do to help at school

  • Assess the student to make sure that word decoding or word recognition is not the source of the difficulty (if decoding is the source of the problem, decoding will need to be addressed in addition to reading speed and phrasing).

  • Give the student independent level texts that he or she can practice again and again. Time the student and calculate words-correct-per-minute regularly. The student can chart his or her own improvement.

  • Ask the student to match his or her voice to yours when reading aloud or to a tape recorded reading.

  • Read a short passage and then have the student immediately read it back to you.

  • Have the student practice reading a passage with a certain emotion, such as sadness or excitement, to emphasize expression and intonation.

  • Incorporate timed repeated readings into your instructional repertoire.

  • Plan lessons that explicitly teach students how to pay attention to clues in the text (for example, punctuation marks) that provide information about how that text should be read.

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