Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. Fluency changes, depending on what readers are reading, their familiarity with the words, and the amount of their practice with reading text. Even very skilled readers may read in a slow, labored manner when reading texts with many unfamiliar words or topics (imagine yourself trying to read a technical book about a complicated subject that you know nothing about!).
There are many ways to help your child read with more fluency. One of the best ways is to “echo read,” where you read a sentence or passage from a book out loud and then ask your child to read the same sentence or passage out loud to you. With this strategy, children hear you read with accuracy and expression, and they are able to practice saying the words the same way. Your child’s teachers at Renaissance often use this reading strategy to improve fluency.
Another way to help develop fluency is simply to have your child read aloud to you every day. Let your child choose books to read and re-read, and ask him or her to read it aloud to you. The more a child reads aloud, especially from familiar books, the more she or he will recognize words and phrasing and be able to read smoothly and with expression.
Try to make sure that books you’re reading with your child are at the right reading level; a "just right" book is not too hard, but not too easy. When looking for books for your child to read on her or his own, try the 5-finger test:
- Open the book to the middle.
- Choose a full page of words.
- Read the page out loud, and hold up a finger each time you come to a word you don't know.
- If your child holds up 5 fingers after finding 5 words she or he does not know, the book is going to be too hard to practice fluency.
Some of the information in this article is from Reading Rockets, a national program that creates and disseminates free, evidence-based information about reading through three major services: PBS television programs, online services, and professional development opportunities. For more information, please visit www.readingrockets.org.