WHAT IS FLUENCY?
Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Their reading sounds natural, as if they are speaking. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word. Their oral reading is choppy and plodding.
Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words, they can focus their attention on what the text means. They can make connections among the ideas in the text and between the text and their background knowledge. In other words, fluent readers recognize words and comprehend at the same time. Less fluent readers, however, must focus their attention on figuring out the words, leaving them little attention for understanding the text.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO ME: A CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE
When a child has a difficulty or frustration, they are usually unable to express what is causing this feeling. Instead they may say, “ I hate this!“ ,“It’s stupid!“, or they may avoid the task all together. Those few children who are able to express themselves often tell me:
- 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.
- I don’t know how to group words together to make sense.
- I don’t know how to tell what a character is feeling.
WHAT I SEE AT HOME: A PARENT’S PERSPECTIVE
Here are some clues for parents that a child may be having reading difficulties as a result of his or her fluency:
- She reads very slowly, often stopping at the end of each line.
- He sounds like a robot when he reads.
- It takes her a long time to read something silently.
- He moves his mouth, or mumbles under his breath, when reading silently.
WHAT I SEE IN THE CLASSROOM: A TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE
Here are some clues for teachers that a child may be having reading difficulties as a result of his or her fluency:
- She doesn’t pause at meaningful breaks in sentences or passages, such as commas, and periods.
- He often loses his place or skips a line of text when reading aloud.
- She reads in a monotone, without any expression.
- He reads in a slow, labored manner, without any automaticity.