Reading fluency is the ability to read quickly, accurately, and with appropriate expression. Does your child struggle to sound out words when reading? Does her reading sound very monotone and lack excitement and expression? Does it take your child much longer to read than you would expect? If so, your child may struggle with reading fluency.
It is important to help your child to read fluently because it allows him to spend less time and effort decoding (sounding out) words and more time and effort understanding their meaning. Reading fluency is truly a prerequisite to becoming a proficient reader.
If you have significant concern about your child's reading, it may be best to talk with his teacher and/or the school psychologist that works at your school. These individuals can further investigate the significance of your child's reading struggles and may be able to put further supports in place at school.
There are things you can work on with your child at home to increase your child's reading fluency skills.
- Model fluent reading for your child by reading to her out loud while she follows along silently with her finger. Adult modeling is ideal, but if you do not have time or are not a fluent reader yourself, having your child listen to digital books or books on tape can also be used for this purpose. This strategy helps your child to hear how fluent reading sounds so that they can incorporate that expression in their own reading.
- If your child is struggling to sound out words, mark those words that he stumbled on to be reviewed at the end of the passage or sentence. Help your child sound the word out, discuss its meaning, and then have your child read the part of the text with that word again after this review.
- Help your child understand that expression and prosody (rhythm and stress on certain words to convey meaning) is important. As an example, if your child fails to pause in appropriate places or use expression when a question mark or exclamation point is used, it may adversely impact his understanding of the text meaning. If your child has trouble with phrasing, provide him with cues to pause at punctuation marks and gradually reduce this pausing once your child is using expression with punctuation independently and automatically. If intonation is a concern, model appropriate intonation and then have him repeat the section of text back to you copying your intonation.
- Have your child read to anyone that will listen (stuffed animals and pets count too)! The more your child reads in any capacity, the more vocabulary words she will learn, and the more reading will become effortless.
- You may want to set aside a particular reading time where you will be working specifically on fluency and then many other times where you and your child can simply read together without correction. A good estimate of time needed to utilize reading fluency strategies to see improvement is twenty minutes four to five times a week. When practicing reading fluency strategies, it can require a great deal of effort for your child to implement these techniques. You will want to avoid making every reading encounter "work" to keep reading fun and enjoyable!
RVA School Psychologist & Director of Special Education & Student Services