What is reading fluency, and is it important?
In a nutshell, reading fluency is the ability to read as we speak.
In this post, I will discuss what is reading fluency, is it essential, and how you can help your child improve their fluency with some simple strategies.
As parents teaching our children to read comes with some excitement – our children are growing up, becoming more independent and are about to start experiencing the world through the joy of books.
However, teaching our children to read also comes with some trepidation and a little bit of frustration (I know we should not say it, but it's true). Of course, we want them to read but sitting practising with them can at times be frustrating. Especially in the early days when they are just learning to read, and they read every word ONE…WORD… AT… A… TIME.
As frustrating as this can be your child needs to practise to improve their fluency, and you can help them do this. As their fluency improves so their confidence will grow and before you know it, they will want to be reading to you at bedtime.
So let’s get started.
What is Reading Fluency?
When your child can read as they speak, you have a fluent reader. A fluent reader should be able to read quickly and accurately with expression.
Readers who are not fluent; on the other hand, read without expression, word by word (you know the frustrating period 😊). They do not sound natural when they read.
When children can read fluently both silently and aloud, they understand what they are reading. They can gain meaning from what they are reading; they are starting to develop comprehension skills. As they no longer have to focus on decoding the words itself. Reading Fluency is the start of achieving reading comprehension skills.
Why is Reading Fluency Important?
Children who are fluent readers can make the transition to becoming fluent writers far more quickly than non-fluent readers. Reading Fluency also makes reading more fun for your child. Children who cannot read fluently think of reading as a chore, not as something to be enjoyed.
You might even hear your child make statements like:
“Do I have to read?”
“I don’t like reading.” Or “I hate reading.”
“Reading is so dumb.”
Imagine reading if you had to try and decode every word that you read, and you could not just read for enjoyment.
As your child gets older reading plays a vital role in other subjects such as science and maths. The volume of required reading also increases as your child becomes older.
So now we know what reading fluency is and why it is essential, let's look at some way you can help your child develop reading fluency.
Setting the Foundation for Reading Fluency
Before you can start to improve your child's fluency, your child has to have:
- Good Decoding Skills.
- Good Vocabulary
Decoding is being able to recognise letters and words and sound them out.If your child is not able to decode words confidently because they do not have Phonemic Awareness, then you need to focus on this first.
Phonemic Awareness is about understanding that each phoneme makes a sound. Phonics then focuses on the relationship between sounds and letters, and your child applies this knowledge when decoding words that they have not read before.
You may feel like you are taking a step back, but decoding is a necessary foundation and just like with any new skill, you need a solid foundation to build on.
If you feel that your child may not have mastered this critical foundation, you could consider investing in a reading program for your child. Children Learning Reading is a great program that teaches children as young as 2 years old to read by setting up the right foundation. You can read my review of the program here.
If your child has a good vocabulary, they will find it easier to read.
Even as adults, when we read a book about a topic we do not know or are not familiar with, we usually read slower, and it is much more challenging to understand what we are reading. Reading unfamiliar words is the same for your child.
To increase your child’s vocabulary, read lots of books. A child who has heard lots of books before they even start school will have a more extensive vocabulary. Introduce new words into their reading. Before you start reading a book with unfamiliar words with your child, take time to have a discussion about the book and highlight any new words.
This way, your child will be prepared when they reencounter the word.Another way to improve your child's decoding ability is by focusing on sight words. This Reading Mama has some fantastic sight word resources that you can find here.
How to Improve Reading Fluency
- Be a Good Role Model – Read aloud to your child often. When your child hears fluent reading, it makes it easier for them to model this when reading themselves.
- Use Audiobooks – Audiobooks are another great way to role model fluent reading without you having to read to them yourself.
- Record Your Child – Record your child reading aloud and then play it back to them. Let them assess their reading. Did they remember to pay attention to punctuation? Did they read with expression? Let your child identify one thing they did well and one thing on which they can focus.
- Practice Sight Words – As I mentioned previously focusing on sight words is an excellent way for building your child’s decoding ability which will improve their fluency.
- Repeat Books – When you are working towards improving your child's fluency is to good to get them to read the same book multiple times. Let them read a book that they enjoy. It may drive you slightly crazy when they want to read the same book over and over, but this will improve their fluency and build their confidence. Rhyming books are great for this.
- Use a Variety of Books and Materials – Mix up the type of books and materials your child reads. Let your child read books that interest them. Let them read comics if they want. You can also start with shorter texts and material and work up to longer pieces; this will help to build your child's confidence.
- Make Reading Fun – You don’t want reading to feel like a chore for your child. There are several activities you can do to introduce reading in a fun way to your child. You can read our article on 10 Great Ways to Encourage Your Child to Read here. Or head over to our printables page where we have several activities such as treasure and scavenger hunts that are a fun way to encourage your child to read.
- 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.
- Encourage Expressive Reading – One way you can do this is by taking it in turns to read with your child. This way, they can hear you read with expression and then they can practise this skill when it is their turn to read.
Reading fluency does take time to develop, but as you can see, there are a lot of ways that you can help your child's fluency improve. Keep encouraging your child and have fun reading together.