Reading Fluency — The Importance
Reading fluency is the power to read quickly and accurately. The more fluent a reader, the more he or she automatically groups and recognizes words. Fluent readers excel at oral reading, which is highlighted by smooth and natural expression.
Reading fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and reading comprehension. Since fluent readers don't have to concentrate on decoding the actual words, they can focus their attention on what the text actually means. They can make mental connections throughout the text, as well as apply those connections to their personal backgrounds and experiences. Simply, fluent readers recognize the words and comprehend their overall meaning at the same time.
Reading Fluency — The Struggle
Reading fluency is a significant struggle for many. The less fluent a reader, the more he or she must focus on decoding individual words. Less fluent readers have difficulty with oral reading, which is often slow, choppy, and without natural expression. Less fluent readers must focus their time and attention on figuring out the words, leaving little room for actually understanding the text. Since reading fluency is the key to reading comprehension, less fluent readers often fall behind in educational and professional achievement.
Although some readers identify words well when those words are alone or on a list, they may not read the same words fluently when they appear in a passage of text. Automatic word recognition is an important reading skill, but it's not the end of the story. It's crucial to help students move from word recognition in isolation to reading fluency in context. This takes training and practice.
Reading Fluency — The Findings
Reading fluency is defined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as: "the ease or 'naturalness' of reading," including how a reader (i) groups or phrases words as revealed through intonation, stress, and pauses; (ii) adheres to the writer's syntax; and (iii) expresses oneself in feeling, anticipation, and characterization during oral reading.
In 1995, a significant study on reading fluency was conducted by the NAEP. It found that 44% of U.S. fourth graders were on the lower end of the fluency scale. The study also confirmed the tight correlation between reading fluency and reading comprehension. The study concluded that reading fluency is "a neglected reading skill in many American classrooms, affecting many students' reading comprehension." (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Listening to Children Read Aloud, 15. Washington, DC: 1995.)
Researchers at the National Institute for Literacy have investigated two major instructional approaches related to reading fluency. The first is repeated and monitored oral reading, where students read passages aloud several times and receive guidance and feedback from the instructor. The second is independent silent reading, where students are encouraged to read extensively on their own. So, what was their key finding?
"Repeated and monitored oral reading improves reading fluency and overall reading achievement." (National Institute for Literacy website, 2006)
Reading Fluency — The Power of Reading Out Loud
At LearningRx, we understand that better reading fluency is the key to better reading comprehension. Our clinical and scientific research confirms that students who read and reread passages orally as they receive guidance and feedback become better readers. Indeed, repeated oral reading significantly improves reading fluency for a lifetime. Therefore, it's important to understand your student's strengths and weaknesses on the reading fluency scale. To get a basic understanding of your child's level of reading fluency, please visit our simple reading fluency test.