Reading fluency, like so many other milestones in a child’s life, is something that can take kids a while to achieve. But with practice, consistency, and patience, your young learner will be reading with the best of them!
Our experts at HOMER are here to walk you through what reading fluency is, why it matters, and how to encourage your child down the path toward smooth, confident reading.
What Is Reading Fluency?
Reading fluency describes the level of automation and accuracy a person has while reading. Once your child no longer has to decode, or “sound out,” the majority of the words they encounter and can read smoothly, they’re on their way to reading fluently.
Fluent readers sound natural while reading, as if they’re speaking, and understand phrasing while reading aloud. Think of news anchors reading off a teleprompter. If you didn’t know they had teleprompters, you might think they were just telling you a story!
But that doesn’t mean your child needs to be a news anchor in order to read with fluency. The main goal for your child is to simultaneously recognize and pronounce the words they read while comprehending the information on the page.
Why Is Reading Fluency Important?
Without fluency, reading can be taxing. Stopping to sound out word after word can be exhausting for kids.
Being able to forgo the constant stopping and starting helps alleviate the stress of reading, and reading becomes a much easier, more effective, and incredibly fun process!
It’s not uncommon for beginning readers to pay so much attention to saying the words on the page that they fail to give meaning to what they are reading. In other words, there’s a gap in reading comprehension. Reading without comprehension is actually more reciting than reading.
Understanding — reading comprehension — grows alongside kids’ reading fluency. When a child no longer has to worry about the accuracy and speed of their reading, they can focus directly on what’s happening in the story.
Maintaining the ability to read on their own (and understand what they read!) will also give your child a confidence boost. Their newfound independence may end up making them want to read more as they explore their own interests or dive into imaginative worlds!
Tips To Improve Reading Fluency
Now that we all know what reading fluency is and it’s critical to your child’s learning journey, where do we begin bringing their fluency to fruition?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind and guide your family’s reading time!
Read Aloud To Your Child
This may seem like the most cliche technique in the book, but it’s a cliche for a good reason — it works!
Reading aloud to your child is the surest way to help them know that reading is about meaning. This not only fosters your child’s growth as a book lover, but it also allows them to use reading comprehension to help them develop fluency.
In addition, reading aloud expands children’s vocabulary, and a strong vocabulary is an important aid in fluency, especially after second or third grade.
Having a familiar voice to help and guide your child through stories may also make them more comfortable while they work on their skills.
Reading to your child or engaging in shared reading (you read a page and your child reads the next page) improves a child’s confidence, curiosity, and imagination — all important things that contribute to reading fluency!
Plus, it’s a great option for what all families need plenty of: relaxation and bonding time. Reading together supports the parent-child bond you have with one another by sharing ideas, stories, and moments together.
Allow Your Child To Pick
There is so much power in allowing your child to control (at least to some extent) their own reading journey.
By encouraging your young reader to select their own books for their daily reading practice, you offer them a direct incentive for investing in their reading time.
Letting your child choose their books also gives you the opportunity to get a better understanding of what books your child loves (and could read more of in the future!).
Reread Favorite Books
When your child picks their own book to read, you may run into a situation where they continue to pick the same book multiple days in a row, even if they’ve already read the book several times.
Don’t let the alarm bells sound — this can be a good thing!
By rereading books, your child becomes more familiar with the words (which helps them learn to read those words!) and can begin to engage more deeply with the messages inside the story.
This technique develops your child’s reading comprehension and reading fluency. Their increased comfort with the words in the text and the flow of the story will naturally allow their reading to become more smooth, as they’ll be less concerned about getting the words “right.”
Use Word Trees
Word trees help your child focus on one word at a time, then accumulate accuracy and speed until they have the entire sentence mastered.
If you want to complete a word tree, think of a sentence your child can work on. Then have them write out a single word at the top of the paper — the first word of the sentence.
For each line underneath the first word, your child will write the first word plus add the next word in the sentence. So, the top of the paper will have one word. Then, the line beneath it will have two words. The line beneath that will have three words.
This repeats until the whole sentence is written. The pattern should create an effect that mimics the shape of a cartoon Christmas tree (or just a big triangle!).
This technique is helpful because it allows your child to conquer one word at a time with the goal of building toward the final sentence. By the time they complete the sentence, they’ll be comfortable with reading all of the words!
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Encouraging your child to mimic your voice and intonation while you read together is a great way to capture their attention during reading time. This teaches kids to pay attention to pronunciation and expression, both important parts of reading fluency.
We encourage you to get creative with this! Put on a wacky robot voice or your best Mickey Mouse impression. Your child can then repeat what you did back to you while reading what you just read.
It will get them giggling, but it will also engage their listening skills and their reading fluency skills. And what’s better than a technique that balances the fun with the functional?
Explain What Your Child Doesn’t Understand
Half of the battle when it comes to reading fluency is building a bedrock of knowledge broad enough to allow kids to read on their own.
As your child gets older, they will learn more, eventually enough to problem-solve when they’re uncertain of what something means.
In order to assist in this effort and keep your child learning in the meantime, it’s important to double-check that your child knows the definitions of the words they’re reading, as well as the context they should be used in.
Never be afraid to ask what they know and don’t know. Encouraging your child to be curious (and never, ever embarrassed about asking questions!) is the best way to get a gauge on what tools they’ve already got and what vocabulary they still need to work on.
Read More Than Books
Reading fluency isn’t just about sitting down to read a book. It’s also important because of all the other tasks, ideas, and instructions your child will need to read about in their daily life.
An easy, fun way to change up their reading practice could be by encouraging them to help you out and read things that aren’t books. For example, they could read recipe instructions while you cook or look up something on a search engine for you.
These don’t have to be great, big tasks. Allowing your child to use their skills and work as a little helper can do wonders for their confidence and reading fluency!
Reading Fluency And A Love Of Learning
At HOMER, we understand that reading fluency doesn’t happen overnight. But when it does, it can build a love of learning in your child for years to come!
The most important part of any new skill in your child’s reading journey is practicing with patience and consistency. Don’t ever fret if you feel like your child isn’t learning their new skill immediately.
Children master skills at different times and in different ways. With you there to help, though, your child will be reading fluently in no time!
But we know as well as you that parenting can be tough. For those nights when you need an extra hand to get everything done, we hope you’ll lean on us! Our Learn & Grow app has loads of personalized activities, games, and comprehensive lessons for your child.
They’re able to access all sorts of fun, specialized reading practice to help build their reading fluency and other skills. You’ll know they’re in good hands while you catch up on your busy schedule!
In the meantime, we hope these tips gave you some great options for your reading fluency practice at home. If you’re still looking for more fun ideas, check out some helpful reading games to add to your routine to spice things up!