What is oral reading fluency?
- Reading fluency is the ability to read quickly and easily. It means that a child can recognize and decode words accurately and automatically, and understand the words as they are being read. Children who do not read fluently (choppy readers) have to work hard on the mechanics of reading – then often there’s no mental energy left to think about the meaning of what they are reading.
How do I know if my child is reading fluently?
- A simple way to know if your child is reading fluently is to listen to him/her read a text aloud. As your child reads consider the following:
- How many words does he/she struggle with?
- How easily is he/she sounding out an unknown word?
- Is he/she reading with expression? (for example, pausing at commas, periods, etc.
- Can he/she retell the story or summarize what the paragraph/story was about?
How can I help my child read fluently?
- Model fluent reading. Provide opportunities when your child can hear you read aloud. Be sure to read with expression pausing at punctuation marks and changing voice for characters.
- Teach your child high frequency sight words. High frequency sight words are words that readers are encouraged to recognize without having to sound them out. It is estimated that the first 100 sight words account for approximately 50% of what we read. As you and your child read, point out the sight words in the story. Some children are able to identify the words on flashcards; however, this skill does not transfer to reading. Pointing them out as you read helps in transferring to reading the words in books.
- When having your child practice reading aloud, help your child choose books at his/her independent reading level. Use the 5-finger rule as a guide. This means that a child shouldn’t struggle with more than 5 words on a page.
- Repeated reading has proven to be one of the best strategies for developing reading fluency. Children should be given many opportunities to read the same passage (or story) orally several times. It is best if the adult reads the passage (paragraph, story) first and then has the child read and re-read the same text. Reading the text 4 times is suggested when focusing on improving fluency skills.
- Paired reading is another strategy to improve oral reading fluency. Using this strategy, you and your child read the words aloud together. Be sure to read at your child’s speed reading every word. Make sure your child is looking at each word as one of you points to the words. If your child reads the word incorrectly, say the word and then have your child immediately repeat the word.
- Having your child listen to a taped recording of a book while following along in the story is another good strategy to improve oral reading fluency. Children benefit from listening to fluent readers read while following along in the book. Encourage your child to point to the words on the page while listening to the story as this helps to strengthen word recognition skills.
- When listening to your child read, when he/she comes to an unknown word, wait 5 seconds to allow him/her to use word attack strategy skills to figure out the word. If you have to provide the word for your child, be sure to have him/her repeat the word aloud while pointing to the word in text.
- Whether your child reads to you or you read to your child, be sure to talk about what was read. Asking open ended questions such as, “What did you think of….?, How would you feel if …..? What do you think might happen if…?” is better than asking questions which require a simple one- word answer.
- When possible, help your child make a real- life connection to the story. For example, after reading a story share an experience that the story made you think of from your childhood. Encourage your child to share his/her thinking or experiences. Having such discussions with your child sends the message that the purpose of reading is to understand and think about the text rather than just read words.
By Ms. Sorenson