Reading Fluency - 9 Ways to Skyrocket Your Child's Reading Skills
Here are 9 excellent reading fluency strategies to help make your child an excellent reader!
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This article explains more about how to teach reading fluency, in particular. If you would like additional or more general strategies, check out this page on how to teach reading.
Reading fluency definition
Before we even begin, let's talk about what reading fluency is exactly. Reading fluency is typically defined by the ability to read accurately, quickly, and with proper expression.
Reading fluency is the "proof" that you understand and can convey to listeners what the book or passage you are reading is about. Not to be confused with "automaticity" (the ability to automatically recall written words quickly). Reading fluency combines automaticity with expression when speaking, which indicates that you understand and are "into" the book.
So to recap, if you are a fluent reader, you can read:
Quickly - A child by the end of 1st grade may be expected to read approximately 60 words per minute, increasing as he or she grows. The average adult can read about 300 words per minute.
Accurately - If you are an accurate reader, you have the ability to recall many words by sight and be able to decode words quickly and efficiently without stumbling, missing, or substituting words in the text.
& With Expression - A reader who understands the book or passage as they read it will inject personality with proper voice inflection, volume, and timing to the meaning of the text and while properly using the punctuation and sentence structure utilized by the author to convey the message. (Prosody is another word for reading expression you may have heard.)
Reading fluency goes hand in hand with great reading comprehension, so as you work on fluency, know that you are impacting the comprehension skills of your child also!
Great! We've gotten our definitions out of the way. Here are 9 reading strategies to know how to teach fluency to your reader:
1. Books on tape
Here is a great option for the parent whose voice is strained from reading day after day the same books. 🙂 And a great way to fill the time in the car or before bed while your child falls asleep.
One good place to listen to books on tape would be your local public library! Download the Overdrive app onto your phone and have a go at it.
Or, check out online sources to hear books out loud. There is always Audible.com, or free online places like Librivox, or Project Gutenburg. Type in "free audio books online" to Google and I'm sure you'll find plenty.
2. Read aloud to your child every day!
If you hear nothing else, this is the one to pick out of this article and take away. There just isn't anything comparable to the impact of reading to your child every day. If you aren't the sort to enjoy this, then spread it out and read to them every few days. In between, make certain that other people in the family are taking the time to read to your child. (Think spouse, siblings, grandparents, etc.)
Across the board, every expert out there will tell you that reading aloud to your student will have the greatest of impacts. You really do need to do this to foster a love of reading in your child. It is also a great time for closeness and building your relationship with your child as you settle them in for a good bedtime story.
You can read aloud to your child at any age. My 14 year old twins still love to be read to! It will always be one of our fondest memories together. When they have kids, I plan to read to my grandkids too! 🙂
3. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Read stories over, and over, and over again.
Did I say, "and over again" enough times? Kids LOVE to hear their favorite stories multiple times over. Go ahead and indulge them in this one thing. Really, it's great for them to hear their beloved stories with well-known characters over and over each day. Why? Because it teaches them to LOVE storytime. Reading the same story repeatedly solidifies new words and increases vocabulary. And it teaches expression with sentence structure as they watch you read. Let them eat it up!
** Bonus tip: Make sure you are teaching your child SIGHT WORDS in conjunction with their phonics instruction. Knowing the most high frequency short words from the Fry or Dolch list will enhance your child's fluency to be able to quickly run by "smaller, well-known" words before they must tackle the decoding of unknown new words.
4. Record your student as he reads.
One great technique I have found to be useful is to have your child record himself reading a passage. When he plays the tape or recording back to listen to himself, he can really "hear" at that point what he sounds like and take corrective measures to make it sound better. Have him break down the passage sentence by sentence to repeat the exercise and keep recording himself to hear his own progress.
You can also read a passage or paragraph yourself as your child listens, and have her repeat the same text and attempt to read it in just the same manner that you do. After she has practiced imitating you, at that point she can begin the exercise of recording herself to listen to her own voice read.
5. Have a fabulous home library
To become adept at fluency in reading, your child will need to read and be read to a lot! This means that you are going to need books at home. You'll want to own your favorites and your children's favorites, but you'll also want to have ever-rotating piles of books that you borrow from the library every week or few weeks. That way you have your beloved books close, but also new reads to get excited about just waiting on the shelf.
It's great to have online books too! But make sure you also have hands-on books available as well. Check out this resource for building and cultivating a great home library.
6. Find reading fluency passages online that fit your child's reading level.
Find out from your child's teacher what her Lexile level is for reading. This is a number level of measurement for a child's reading ability that can be matched with a book of the same approximate Lexile level. If you are a homeschooling parent, investigate ways you can assess your child's reading level.
When you know your child's reading level, you can then choose books to read that fit the level of reading your child is comfortable at. When your student becomes well-practiced and comfortable at a certain Lexile range, he'll be ready to move up. Teachers call these books "just right" books because the level of difficulty feels "just right" for the reader.
Although you should choose the appropriate level of books for your child you should always also allow him to pick out books that are either too easy or too difficult if that is a book that brings interest. Just make sure there are also books in the mix that your child can feel confident and comfortable reading.
7. Perform a "reader's theater" at the dinner table (or anytime, anywhere) at home!
You may remember from school days the "reader's theater" that teachers would have children perform. Usually a script is passed out that includes a list of characters and pages of reading material for children to read aloud when it comes their turn to perform by reading aloud according to the character role either they or the teacher has chosen for them. No memorization (or really practice) is necessary because the performance is given while reading the passage. This encourages a fluency of reading expression for students to practice as they encounter the text.
There is no reason at all why you can't have a fun "reader's theater" at home! Get the whole family involved, or even have just one person play several roles to give your child practice reading different "voices". Make it fun and get costume props involved! You can find reader's theater scripts online, or you could choose to come up with your own based off a book of your own choosing.
8. Practice speed reading
Learning to read speedily can be a great asset for your student. Reading at a faster rate will give your child confidence to move forward in more advanced classes, and it will help to bring more enjoyment while reading for pleasure.
There are ways to make this fun! Kids love competitive games. Either make a competition out of who can read faster (if kids are evenly paired), or find ways to have your child compete against themselves. There are great games and apps that you can find online or download (such as Help A Hedgehog) to encourage your child's rate of reading.
9. Choose limerick or rhyming-type poems to read together.
Rhyming-type poems are a great choice for kids who struggle with fluency. The repetition of sounds helps a student anticipate how the next line will end, and they can make an educated guess on what the words will be based upon the cadence of the poem. Poems and limericks are easy to remember, and so when a child reads it over and over he can begin to "pick up" on the sounds of the words more easily, since they words are more readily recalled.
When your child begins writing, he may begin to notice that the same letters frequently make the same sounds, so his letter-sound recognition increases. He may also noticed that different pairings of vowels or consonants also may make similar sounds, and this will help him with word decoding as he learns phonics and reading.
Also, poems and limericks are just plain fun to read! And when you have a struggling reader, making it fun is always a positive. Make it silly and fall to pieces laughing together while you are reading.
I wish you well on your quest to teach your child how to become an excellent and fluent in the skill of reading. Remember, it's not a matter of luck, but instead a skill that your child can grow into. Be patient and encourage these type of activities and your student will become a great reader!
Forever a reader for life,
How to Read: a Kick-Start for Beginners of Any Age
An excellent "kick-start" for beginning readers to learn 125 first words taken from the Fry and Dolch word lists in 56 short daily lessons (about 5-10 minutes a day). With beautiful color illustrations and lauded for it's simplicity, How to Read nicely pairs phonics and sight word instruction into an old-made-new method for beginners of any age.