Fluency Issues and Helpful Tips
Children who do not read with fluency may have difficulty with decoding skills or they may just need more practice with speed and smoothing out their reading. Their reading can sound choppy. Fluency is important for motivation; children who find reading laborious tend not to want to read! As readers head into upper elementary grades, fluency becomes increasingly important. The volume of reading required in the upper elementary years escalates dramatically. Children whose reading is slow or labored will have trouble meeting the reading demands of their grade level.
What the problem looks like from a child's perspective:
Children will usually express their frustration and difficulties in a general way, with statements like, "I hate reading!" or "This is stupid!". But if they could, this is how children might describe how fluency difficulties, in particular, affect their reading:
“I just seem to get stuck when I try to read a lot of the words in this chapter.”
“It takes me so long to read something.”
“Reading through this book takes so much of my energy, I can't even think about what it means.”
Here are some clues for parents that a child may have problems with fluency:
He knows how to read words but seems to take a long time to read a short book or passage silently.
She reads a book with little or no expression.
He stumbles a lot and loses his place when reading something aloud.
She reads aloud very slowly.
She moves her mouth when reading silently (subvocalizing).
What a teacher may see in the classroom:
Her results on words-correct-per-minute assessments are below grade level or targeted benchmark.
She has difficulty and grows frustrated when reading aloud, either because of speed or accuracy.
He does not read aloud with expression; that is, he does not change his tone where appropriate.
She does not "chunk" words into meaningful parts.
When reading, he doesn't pause at meaningful breaks within sentences or paragraphs.
Below are some tips and specific things for children to do:
Track the words with your finger as a parent or teacher reads a passage aloud. Then you read it.
Have a parent or teacher read aloud to you. Then, match your voice to theirs.
Read your favorite books and poems over and over again. Practice getting smoother and reading with expression.
What parents can do to help at home:
Support and encourage your child. Realize that he or she is likely frustrated by reading and the more fun it can be the better the outcome.
If your child can decode words well, help him or her build speed and accuracy:
Read aloud and having your child match his voice to yours. Have your child practice reading the same list of words, phrase, or short passages several times.
Remind your child to pause between sentences and phrases. Read aloud to your child to provide an example of how fluent reading sounds.
Give your child books with predictable vocabulary and clear rhythmic patterns so the child can "hear" the sound of fluent reading as he or she reads the book aloud.
Use books on tapes from a service like Audible; have the child follow along in the print copy.
With time, practice, and support your child’s fluency will continue to improve. Keep it fun and change up activities frequently to keep it fresh. It’s also a great idea to introduce new books to your collection frequently. Continue being positive and encouraging, your child will quickly blossom as a fluent reader.