Fluency is an essential component of confident reading.
To read with fluency is to read with phrasing, intonation, and expression, while responding accurately to punctuation. Fluency marks the transition from deliberate decoding (“sounding out”) to a rapid, more fluid, effortless rendering of text.
Children who struggle with fluency are less confident readers, as they experience shame and frustration when reading aloud. Quite commonly, children who struggle with fluency grapple with pronunciation and phrasing. They tend to read in a monotone voice, with limited vocal range. Some characteristics of less than fluent reading would include word-by-word matching, with some long pauses between words, and a limited expressive interpretation of the text.
Fluent readers, in contrast, read with accuracy, ease, and expression. Fluency is built when children read in longer phrases, attend to punctuation, and engage in an expressive interpretation of text.
As children learn to respond to punctuation, they must attend not only to question marks and exclamation points, but also to commas that relate to phrasing, and quotation marks that indicate dialogue and interactions amongst characters.
In my experience, fluency one of the most important, and yet most misunderstood skills, in reading instruction and assessment today. As we know, all children are expected to read fluently, in order to improve their independent reading skills, yet one question remains: How is fluency developed?
There are several easy ways to help support fluency at home:
1. Child reads aloud at home - First and foremost, even for our "older" kids, reading aloud is imperative. Even if it is one or two nights a week, invite your child to read aloud to you.
This experience is invaluable, as he or she can engage with text and build confidence. This resulting improved belief in oneself is integral to one's success as a fluent and confident reader.
Children can also read to a younger sibling, over the phone to a distant relative, or even to a pet (or stuffed animal, for younger children...) These fun and creative options extend the possibilities for your child to have increased exposure to reading aloud.
This independent reading aloud must be from an accurately-leveled text. Ask your child's teacher for guidance here. Encourage your child to read aloud in an effort to help support him/her in making the transition from deliberate decoding to an accurate, expressive rendering of text.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice! As we all know, there's only one way to get to Carnegie Hall - Practice. (a little humor!) - On a more serious note, children who are given the opportunity to engage with text of varied genres, with adult support, develop strength and confidence as competent and strategic readers.
3. Shared Reading of the same text or picture book with an adult caregiver. - This expressive rendering of text demonstrates a love for reading, models fluent reading, and increases your child's motivation to read independently. The shared read-aloud experience with adult caregivers is abundantly helpful in building a child's comprehension and fluency as a reader.
4. Books on Tape or CD – These are excellent supplemental resources to increase a child’s motivation to read and opportunity to listen to fluent reading. Our libraries are filled with these books on CD.
For parents who have multiple children at varied grade levels, this is an easy way to allow for your child to listen to a fluent, expressive rendering of text by an adult who clearly demonstrates a love for reading, language, and storytelling.
In my experience, just the "technology connection" of books on CD is plenty to motivate any child to eagerly set up that CD and listen to good storytelling.... sometimes for hours on end.
Over time, this increased practice will lead to an improved ability to render text in a more fluent manner. Most importantly, there is a transition that takes place, a shifting in one's own self-concept that is intangible, yet so very real.
"To learn to read is to light a fire. Every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." ~ Victor Hugo.
Carolyn Polchinski, M.S.Ed. is a Clinical Professor of Reading and Literacy Education and licensed Learning Specialist based out of Scarsdale. She specializes in supporting children with A.D.H.D. and executive function deficits.
To learn more about the programs she offers, call 914.325.0297 or email Carolyn@ConfidentReaders.com. You can also read Patch's profile article of Polchinski here.