When you think of teaching your child to read, you may think about phonics, sight words, or comprehension. You might imagine sitting down with your child to read and hearing them read the words across the page with joy. But that may not be the reality for many children. They may not like reading. Every night, reading time might be a struggle and you both end up being miserable. You might finally resort to telling your child to just read on their own and then you have no idea what they are doing.
The problem may just be that they are struggling with reading fluency, and there are many ways to help with this. If you need your children to improve their reading fluency in English, this blog post is for you. We will go over the following topics:
- What is reading fluency?
- How does it relate to comprehension?
- Tips on how to improve a child’s reading fluency
What Is Reading Fluency?
Many parents ask, “What is fluency?” or “How does fluency help children become better readers. If your child is struggling with reading, what you actually might be noticing is that they are struggling with fluency. When a child struggles with fluency, their reading seems so difficult and labored. They might have to stop for long periods of time or repeat passages in order to read more effectively. When this happens, some parents wonder if their child might have dyslexia. You might be wondering this as well. Don’t worry. One of the ways children generally develop this skill by repeating phrases until they are able to say them without making mistakes or pauses. And they just may not have had this practice in school or as a part of their curriculum. There are some other things you can do to help with fluency to make reading easier for your child, even if they have dyslexia.
Simply put, fluency is the ability to read smoothly, accuracy, with a reasonable rate and proper expression. In the reading world, we use the acronym SARE to help us remember. But you can just ask yourself, “Is my child reading as if they are talking to a friend?” If so, then they are reading fluently.
How Does Fluency Relate to Comprehension?
The more fluently a person reads, the better they understand what they are reading. One could argue the opposite way as well: that people who can comprehend what they are reading are able to read more fluently. But one thing we know for certain is that the better they understand what they are reading, the more they enjoy it. And the more they enjoy reading, the more they will want to read. And the more they read, the more fluent they get. It simply works like a beautiful circle. But if they struggle with fluency, the circle gets all messed up and it can end up being a miserable activity that just never gets better.
But fear not. I’m going to give you 5 tips you can use today to help your child improve their fluency.
5 Tips to Improve Reading Fluency
- Read aloud to your child to model good reading. There are so many good books to share with children. If they see reading as an enjoyable social activity that they do with you from an early age, they will want to read more as they get older. Also, books you can read aloud are so much more interesting than the phonics books that children read when they are just starting out. Some great books to read to your child who is just beginning to learn to read are:
- The Boxcar Children
- Amelia Bedilia
- Junie B. Jones
- Flat Stanley
- The Ramona Collection
- The Magic Treehouse
Even as your child gets older, they would really enjoy sitting down to listen to you read one of their favorite books to them. Imagine reading the Harry Potter series together, or Percy Jackson, or even one of the books they have to read for a high school class. Think of reading to them a book that is a bit beyond their reading level, so they can have access to stories they wouldn’t be able to read on their own.
If you aren’t very comfortable reading aloud to your child, you might want to sit down together and listen to an audible version of the book. I like having a subscription to Audible.com. I can order a new book every month – and I love to listen to books as I’m driving in the car. Southern California traffic can be brutal!
- Practice repeated reading. Have your child read a passage while you time them on a stopwatch. Don’t tell them it’s a race, just tell them to read comfortably. As they read, make a note of words they stumbled on, skipped, or mispronounced. Then after their first read, go over the mistakes they made with love and care. Don’t point them out as mistakes, just simply say, “Can I show you something?” And then teach them how to say the words they missed. Then let them read the passage again. I guarantee they will improve their time. Kids love this game. I once had a student who wanted to read a passage 5 times in a row to see how fast she could get!
- Sing songs and read poetry together. In my early days of teaching, I had a mentor teacher tell me that poetry was meant to be read aloud. I have never forgotten that, and every time I teach a poetry unit, we read all of the poems aloud. Reading poetry is helpful for motivating children to read the same content again and again, helping them to practice without even realizing it. Since many poems have a rhyming scheme, you are also emphasizing phonemic awareness for children who may have missed that foundational skill when they were younger. You may even want to memorize some poems together. There are so many poetry books that are enjoyable for children no matter what their age. Here are a few of my favorites:
- A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Stevenson – nursery rhymes for the very young
- Now We are Six by A.A. Milne
- When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne – I loved these books as a child and remember reading them with my grandmother.
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky
- Practice by having children listen as you retell stories from TV shows that they watch so that they can improve their skills listening carefully and comprehending what’s going on quickly without losing interest. Then have them practice telling the story aloud to you or someone else, as if it were a performance.
- Have them practice a few sight words at a time until they are automatic. I like to focus on 10 at a time. Get a list of 100 sight words. I like to use Fry’s 1,000 sight words and create slide decks of 100 in each group.
- Show your child no more than 10 cards in each session. If they already know the word, put that word in a “done” pile to practice later and build confidence.
- Practice the 10 new words each day until all of those words are in a done pile. The important thing to remember about sight words is that many of them cannot be “sounded out”, so in order to keep your child from just guessing an becoming frustrated, TELL them the word if they don’t remember it.
- Now, as you come across the sight words you are working on, point them out in books you are reading together. For example, “There’s the word ‘they’ that we are working on in our sight words. Do you see that? Can you say ‘they’?” Some children have an easier time recalling sight words if they say them aloud or point to them in a book while reading, rather than just saying the sound of the word.
In conclusion, when children read aloud, they are required to do more than just recognize words on the page. They are also paying attention to pronunciation and phonics that affect how those words sound when spoken out loud. Reading is really a combination of different reading skills, all working together to help a student understand what they are reading. These skills are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. Fluency is an important part of reading because it allows for smoother comprehension – where a reader can better understand what he or she reads by using smoothness, accuracy, rate, and expression (SARE). When they can spend a little bit of time each day practicing these things, you will notice their confidence soar, and that they will become a child who loves to read.