When children are fluent readers, they read phrases and sentences smoothly, and with expression. Proficient fluency allows them to achieve a higher level of understanding and comprehension when reading. Once children have mastered letter sounds, use word families to decode unfamiliar words, and have a good repertoire of basic sight words; they may begin to feel the flow of good reading. The process of reading fluently becomes second nature. For others, however, reading fluently can be a challenge. They struggle with the sounds, words, and phrases; therefore the sentences, when read aloud, sound choppy and robotic. This can prove quite frustrating for some children and become a blockade for reading improvement.
Fluency challenges can be rooted in a variety of factors. For some children, they are still struggling with the decoding of words. If they are having to stop and “sound out” words, they are using their cognitive energy here; little is reserved for reading automaticity. Others do not have enough sight words in their repertoire, or struggle with decoding strategies for new and unfamiliar words. Other students lack fluency because there is no meaning connected to the words they are reading. All of these scenarios can lead to the slowing down of reading, and can prevent children from grasping the overall meaning of the text.
Does my child struggle with reading fluency?
Here are some clues that a child may be having difficulty with fluency. He/she:
• Reads aloud quite slowly
• Reads text with little or no expression
• Knows how to read words, but sometimes takes a long time to read a short book or passage silently
• Sometimes stumbles and loses his/her place when reading aloud
How can I help?
As parents, we want to help our children become the best readers they can be. Reading is an essential skill; children must fell personally motivated to improve their reading. This will develop naturally with increased fluency levels. Here are some ways to help at home:
• Visit with your child’s teacher and ask for observations of your child’s decoding and fluency skills
• Highlight word families when reading (e.g. –at, -ight, -ate, etc.) and use them as a strategy for decoding unfamiliar words
• Review basic sight words and high-frequency words regularly
• If your child is becoming frustrated, acknowledge how hard he/she is working, and suggest taking a break
• Try choral reading; read the passage together, at the same time
• Try echo reading; read the passage, then invite your child to repeat it
• Remind your child to pause between sentences and phrases
• Give your child books with predictable vocabulary and clear rhythmic patterns, so he/she can “hear” the sound of fluent reading, as it is read aloud.
Repetition and positive reinforcement are your best tools when helping your child increase his/her level of reading fluency. Celebrate effort, strides, and successes, and you will see your child’s reading soar!
By Amy Spiers, Learning Tree Educational Store