Reading fluently is an important skill. It means that your child is reading quickly with accuracy and with intonation. As the amount of reading expected in the later grades increases, the importance of fluent reading increases as well. There are strategies to improve reading fluency that can easily be incorporated into daily homework routines.
The easiest way to build fluency is to do repeated readings of a text. Try to pick a short text or poem that they can easily read for this purpose. If the text is too difficult, then your child may get frustrated. To keep it fun, you can time them and see if they can beat their reading each time. Reading through a passage about 3-4 times, your child should get faster and more fluent by the last time through.
Read to your child and model fluent reading. Reading with intonation will give a model for your child to copy when they read. When your child reads, you may need to point out the punctuation and how this changes how we would read the words. For example, a word would be said with different intonation depending on if the punctuation is a period, a question mark or an exclamation mark. Through modeling how you would say each word, and then having the child repeat it with the same intonation, it will help to build their fluency when reading and they will sound more natural and create more interest.
When to Begin Working on Fluency Strategies
If your child is just beginning to learn to read, then the focus should stay on building their decoding skills, word recognition and word analysis skills. Once they seem to have some confidence in reading, and are making progress with the above skills, then work can be done on fluency. In the schools, they will usually start to work on this around the middle of Grade one. If your child is struggling with decoding skills, you may want to seek extra help before working on fluency. However, once they are starting to be more comfortable with the decoding, then it is just as important if not more so, to practice some fluency techniques in order to consolidate and improve their rate and accuracy of reading.
Fluency should also be maintained and practiced in later grades as well. Choose the texts that are at your child’s level and of interest to them. Similar strategies to above can be used and in school a variety of group work can be done to increase your child’s fluency.
Teacher can assess the word recognition and decoding skills to determine if these are a factor in the child’s fluency.
Various group exercises, including choral reading or cloze reading can be used to work on fluency. On the individual level, repeated readings can be done and tracked for time.
The teacher can model and have children repeat back, with emphasis on their expression. As well, modeling and having children read in various moods (e.g. sad, angry, excited) will help them to build their intonation when reading. Lessons may need to specifically target punctuation in the text to help the children in building more expressive reading skills.
More Research Still Needs to be Done
While it is recognized as one of the components of successful reading, there is still a lot to learn about what strategies are helpful in building fluency skills. Investigation continues to determine if the repeated reading should be done in word lists (like sight words) or passages. As well, while is has been shown that repeated reading of the same text is beneficial, it is not clear whether reading a text on a similar topic with similar vocabulary would work equally as well.
On the Road to More Natural Reading
Fluency in reading is an important skill that should not be overlooked. The above simple strategies can greatly enhance a child’s fluency and their ability to read more naturally.