Reading fluency refers to the ability to read text accurately and quickly with expression. Children who are fluent readers can rapidly recognise words, know where they are in a sentence or paragraph, make sense of what they have just read, and be able to answer questions about it.
Non-fluent readers read word for word without expression. They don't sound natural when they read.
Reading fluency is the start of achieving reading comprehension skills.
Why is Reading Fluency Important?
Reading fluency is one of the most important skills to develop in early elementary school.
Reading fluency has many benefits for children, such as better understanding the information presented in texts, improved attention span, and increased vocabulary size.
Another benefit of reading fluency is that it makes reading more enjoyable for children. Children who struggle to read think of reading as a tedious task rather than something they enjoy.
You might hear your child say things like “Do I have to read?” or “Reading is so dumb.”
Imagine reading if you struggle to decode every word you read instead of reading for enjoyment.
Students who have a fluent reading ability make the transition to being an articulate writer much more quickly than those who are not, and as students go through high school, reading plays an essential role in math, science, and social studies classes.
15 Tips to Improve Reading Fluency
Tip # 1 – Read Aloud to Your Child
Children are often eager to start reading independently, but it's still essential for them to hear the occasional story read aloud.
Children benefit from hearing the way an adult reads because it models fluency. When your child hears you pronounce words smoothly and easily, pause after commas in a sentence, and stop when there are periods on the page, they'll begin doing so as well. Reading to your child also exposes them to expressive reading. As you emphasise the emotion in the text as you read, your child will hear this and start to do the same when they read.
Tip # 2 – Create a Reading Nook
Provide a quiet space for reading, equipped with your child’s favourite books. It may not have the same effect on fluency as one of the teaching techniques, but it will instil an appreciation for books and reading, which is often half the battle.
Tip # 3 – Continue to Develop Phonemic Awareness
To develop phonemic awareness, your child must be able to know their letters and corresponding sound and be able to blend the sounds to read the words. The same holds for spelling but in reverse. Continue to engage your child in fun activities that focus on the skills needed to develop Phonemic Awareness.
Tip # 4 – Build Your Child’s Sight Word Vocabulary
Sight words, sometimes known as high-frequency words, are the foundation of a child’s reading and writing skills. If they cannot quickly recognise familiar words, your child is more likely to stumble as they try to sound out or decode everything they read.
Focusing on sight words is an excellent way for building your child’s decoding ability which will improve their fluency.
Tip # 5 – Enjoy Paired Reading Together
Encourage your child to read aloud with you by taking turns reading sentences or pages aloud.
Tip # 6 – Try Echo Reading
Echo reading is a technique where you read to your child and then your child reads back to you. You might start with one sentence and then move up to two to three sentences as they improve.
Tip # 7 – Pick Books Your Child Will Enjoy and Can Relate To
Your child will be far more motivated to read if the book is about something that interests your child. If your child loves animals, read books about animals; if they enjoy vehicles, read a book about vehicles etc. Books that have stories or events that your child can relate to are also a great way to encourage reading.
Tip # 8 – Invest in Audiobooks
One of the most popular methods for reading aloud to your child is by using audiobooks. Audiobooks not only allow your child to hear people other than yourself reading aloud to them but also allows them to listen to their favourite books over and over again. This is another type of modelling, and whilst your child may not be reading, listening to someone reading well with expression will improve their fluency.
Tip # 9 – Practice Comprehension
Fluency isn't just about recognising the words and reading them expressively at a good pace. It's also about understanding what has been read and being able to evaluate that information. There are several activities you can do to improve your child's comprehension skills.
Tip # 10 – Record Your Child
Record your child as they read aloud. Afterwards, have them assess their reading – Did they remember to pay attention to punctuation? Did they read with expression? Have them identify one thing on which they can continue practising and another that needs improvement.
Tip # 11 – Reread the Same Books
Reread firm favourites again and again. Simple rhyming books are great for this. Whilst it may drive you slightly crazing reading the same book multiple times, this is an excellent way for your child to improve their fluency. As you read the book numerous times, you will find that your child starts to memorise the book. Do not be concerned about this as this is what you want. Memorising allows your child to gain confidence as they begin to recognise words and ‘read' more fluently. This confidence boost encourages and motivates them to keep reading.
Tip # 12 – Use a Variety of Books and Reading Materials
Mix up the type of books and materials your child reads. Let your child read comics, poems, short stories, fiction, non-fiction etc. Start with shorter books and material and work up to longer pieces; this will help to build your child's confidence.
Tip #13 – Make Reading Fun
Children can rebel against reading if it becomes a task instead of an enjoyable experience. As you work on improving your child's reading fluency, don't stick to one course of action (e.g., practising independently). Mix up their routine to keep things exciting and engaging. Incorporating games and activities into your strategy will keep your child engaged.
Tip # 14 – Identify Potential Reading Problems
Your child could be struggling to read either due to the text not being at their level or an underlying learning disability. Firstly ensure that you are reading books at your child's level. If your child is misreading more than one word in approximately every 20 words, then their reading fluency will be impacted as they will be focusing more on word recognition and not on their fluency.
If you are confident that the books are appropriate and your child is still struggling to read, then as your child reads, listen to their speed, precision and infliction (does your child pause at the correct times, use emphasis and expression). Try to identify which of the three fluency areas your child is struggling with and focus on that area.
Tip # 15 – Introduce a Typing Course
This may seem strange for reading, but learning to type can enhance literacy skills. There are several programs, like Typing Club, that offer free typing courses.
Reading fluency takes time and effort to develop. As you can see, there are many simple ways in which parents can help increase their child's reading fluency. Encourage your child to read often and take some time for fun together as a family.