Learning to read is a complicated process that requires several areas of the brain to work together to decode, recognize and make sense of what is being read. In this post, I am focusing on ways you can help you child become a more fluent reader.
What is reading fluency?
Fluent readers can read aloud with expression and ease. They are able to recognize words and comprehend a story at the same time. When students read fluently they focus on the meaning of what they are reading and do not spend time decoding words. Reading accurately is the goal of fluent reading not speed. Learning to read fluently occurs over time and with practice.
What hinders a child’s reading fluency?
Students struggle to read fluently when they spend more time decoding words which impedes their ability to comprehend the text. The speed with which they recognize and process words affects their reading fluency. How quickly a child uses context to identify words, the speed with which she identifies a word’s meaning and the speed with which the overall meaning is put together has an impact on the child’s reading fluency.
Three ways to help your child build reading fluency
Children who experience difficulty in learning to read need structured and explicit reading instruction based on their needs, strengths and interests. This includes word study, guided reading lessons and targeted phonemic awareness and phonics lessons through multi-sensory activities. They also need many opportunities to practice reading and to hear others reading. You can help your child read more fluently by reading to him and by setting aside time to practice reading.
1. Reading Aloud
Reading to your child is one of the easiest ways to encourage a love of reading, improve oral language skills, engage verbal short-term memory and increase a child’s vocabulary. Reading aloud allows you to model reading with expression. You can read wonderful picture books with rich vocabulary to young children or young adult novels to older kids. If you child loves dinosaurs or animals, you can read aloud nonfiction books about their topic of interest. Poetry books are also a wonderful and quick way to model reading. Many children enjoy and prefer graphic novels and comics to chapter books when they are learning to read. In the photo below, my daughter is reading The 13-Story Treehouse by Terry Denton and Andy Griffiths to her little brother.
These sites have great lists of books that kids will enjoy:
- A Classroom Reading List from The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity (grades 3 -7)
- Picture Book Biographies from Read Aloud Revival
- 21 Picture Books about Art from No Time for Flashcards
- 10 Historical Fiction Books from The Moments at Home
- 13 Books for High Students from BookBub
- If You Like Magnus Chase, You’ll Like These Other Norse Mythology Books from The Imagination Soup
- Favorite Books for 1st Graders from Great Schools
- Read Aloud Chapter Books for 4 and 5 (and 6) Year Olds from What Do We Do All Day
2. Reading Practice
Reading practice helps your child move from accuracy to automaticity. Getting your child to read aloud to you can be frustrating but reading practice doesn’t necessarily mean they have to read an entire book. Reading practice includes reading:
- word lists,
- a comic,
- a graphic novel,
- a poem, or
- short stories
All About Word Lists
Word lists include words from the child’s word study list, sight words that cannot be sounded out (phonetically irregular), high-frequency words and content related vocabulary that will help the child read science, history or mathematics information more fluently. You child’s teacher will likely send home a list of words to practice. Reading through word lists for a few minutes each day will help your child recognize commonly used words. The words your child practices should be ones she has already been introduced to and has had an opportunity to practice at school. The purpose of reading words lists is to help move your child from accuracy to automaticity.
You can create word lists for your child on index cards or purchase ready made cards. There are many lists available that can be printed out for free; Fry Words lists, Dolch sight words, or Orton-Gillingham Red Word List (Kinder List, more can be found on the Teacher Pay Teachers Site). It doesn’t matter which list you child is using, in the end they all contain the words that occur most often in texts. I created the word list above using the Fry list. You can download the word list below.
Reading Sentences Builds Fluency
Reading simple sentences that contain decodable words and sight words allows a child to practice applying her decoding skills and to practice reading more fluently. I found a packet of Fluency Strips created by The Moffatt Girls which I use with the students I tutor. Spending just a few minutes during each lesson reading a set of fluency strips provides a child with practice and allows me to see observe and note which words require review. The fluency strips begin with simple decodable words and build to provide further practice.
If your child brings home reading books, you can copy a few sentences from his book onto paper, then practice reading the sentences a few times. You can model reading with expression, then allow your child practice. In the photo below, I wrote the first sentence from the book, Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton.
3. Read Together
When children are learning to read and are not yet fluent readers, it is very frustrating for them. It can be difficult to coax, motivate, and urge a child to keep at it and read. To provide encouragement and support you can read together. When you read together, you are able to provide support and read some or most of the text together.
Choral reading is when you and your child read a short book or poem at the same time while you both follow along with the text. This is often helpful for younger students who are learning to read. Choral reading is done with a familiar book or poem.
You can partner read with your child so that you take turns reading a story or part of text. By sharing the reading experience with your child, you model fluent reading and provide breaks for your child without loosing the flow of the story. Partner reading works well when the book being read is ‘just right’ for your child, neither too easy nor too difficult. It might take a few tries to find a book that works well. If the book is too difficult, then it is one to read aloud to them.
I hope you have found these suggestions helpful for building your child’s reading fluency. With targeted reading instruction, support at home, and practice most children become fluent readers. If you notice signs that your child is having great difficulty learning to read, speak with her teacher. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has an information page that lists the signs of dyslexia from the preschool years through adulthood. The site is good place to learn about dyslexia if you are concerned about your child’s reading progress.