By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
Reading fluency is the ability to read quickly, smoothly and correctly. Fluent readers recognize words instantly and do not need to sound out letters as they read. They are able to incorporate inflection and emotion when reading aloud. In contrast, children who lack reading fluency read each word individually (instead of reading the words as part of a phrase or sentence) and often feel exhausted and frustrated after reading longer passages or paragraphs.
How can parents help their child become a fluent reader? Here are some of the most important components to improving reading fluency:
1. Work on decoding ability. Children who are able to use small words or word units (that they already know) to figure out larger words are decoding. As students learn to decode, they will more easily recognize root words, prefixes and suffixes. A simple example: an in pan, ran, hand, cannot. Talk to your child’s teacher about word decoding activities that will help your child progress to decoding more difficult words and word families.
2. Memorize sight words. Your child can dramatically improve his or her reading fluency by memorizing high-frequency words such as the, said, through, what, have, about and their. Words like these are not easy to decode, but occur often in the English language. Your child’s speed and comprehension will improve greatly when he or she can easily recognize and read sight words and phrases.
3. Practice and time repeated reading. Children need practice with the same passages to improve fluency. Have your child read a short passage from a favorite book (or an assignment from school). Time your child during each read and see if his or her speed improves on second and third read-throughs. As your child reads, pay attention to mistakes, speed, smoothness and his or her intonation in appropriate places.
4. Give your child an example of what fluent reading sounds like by reading passages first. Read a sentence to your child first, then have him or her read it. With each read-through, encourage your child to mimic your inflection and match your speed – by reading aloud together if it is helpful. Your child should pay attention to punctuation as well.
5. Review for comprehension after reading. With time, your child will improve his or her reading speed and make fewer mistakes, but fluency also means your child needs to comprehend as he or she reads. Ask your child questions after a passage – what did this sentence mean? What did the character feel when she or he did that? What do you think will happen next? What is the purpose of this assignment based on what you just read?
Reading fluency comes with practice and patience. Parents should also encourage their child to read for pleasure, as the more positive your child feels about reading the more likely he or she will be to read on his or her own. As a child’s fluency improves, so will his or her ability to read to him or herself. You can help by reading with your child, encouraging your child to read to you and continuing to make books and reading a family priority. As always, ask your child’s teacher for tools and exercises that will help your child become a better, more fluent reader.
Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the Huntington Learning Center of Edison at 1-732-906-0900.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800-CAN-LEARN.
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