Fluency is reading speed, the number of words a child reads correctly per minute. A fluent reader can read quickly, automatically and with expression.
WHY IS FLUENCY IMPORTANT?
Fluency effects reading comprehension. A slow reader cannot hear words quickly enough to comprehend meaning. Phrases become disconnected, sentences lost. An author’s images, thoughts and tone are nearly incomprehensible. Slow reading is difficult for anyone to understand. If I read an excerpt out-loud slowly, you, an adult expert reader, would also struggle to understand meaning.
WHAT DOES A NON-FLUENT READER EXPERIENCE?
Imagine a swarm of bubbles. Some pop before they reach you. Some float up. Some descend. Others zig zag. In slow reading, the same thing happens to words: they become a kind of scramble.
Imagine reading the following sentence:
Turned, here, shouted, the, it, street, said, down.
This is what a non-fluent reader experiences while reading—a bunch of nonsensical, disconnected words coming at them. Then, they’re faced with the impossible task of streaming them back together in a coherent, comprehendible way.
No wonder slow readers suffer from poor reading comprehension.
SIGNS OF A NON-FLUENT READER:
- Gets easily frustrated when reading
- Reading feels boring
- Reading takes a painfully long time
- Homework takes hours
- Struggles with decoding
- Does not know all phonetic units
- Has not learned all of the most common sight words
- Minimal or no reading comprehension
HOW TO IMPROVE FLUENCY
- READ A LOT- Try reading: The pertinacious elephant endured public contumely because she failed to adhere to the sumptuary regulations of the zoo. Pertinacious, contumely and sumptuary probably slowed you down; you haven’t encountered these words enough to read them rapidly. In the early grades: the more you read= the more exposure you have to word orthography and sound=the faster you read. So read A LOT!
- FOLLOW ALONG WITH A FLUENT READER- Read out-loud and have the child follow the words with his eyes. This will help him with “Read A LOT”—since, by following along with a fluent reader, he’ll gain exposure to more words. Be sure to read with expression, pause at the proper punctuation, and convey the author’s tone.
- LEARN SYSTEMATIC PHONICS- Many children struggle with fluency because they learned how to read using tactics like “What sounds right?” or “What makes sense there?” These types of questions hold readers back. Children, especially dyslexic readers, need to be taught phonics, or sound chunks. If they learn these sound chunks, they stop processing each letter or thrashing over what (out of thousands of words) makes sense there. They begin to process words rapidly, because these sound chunks unlock the code in an efficient way.
- READ OUT-LOUD TO THE CHILD- Read a book two-grade levels above the students current grade level. This will expose him to more vocabulary. Sometimes children don’t become fluent because they have a limited vocabulary. It is hard to read “hagiography” fluently when we’ve so rarely heard “hagiography” and we’ve no idea what it means.