Practising reading fluency
How to support fluency practise when you read with your child
What is reading with fluency?
Fluency- put simply is the ability to read quickly and accurately with expression and comprehension. It is an important skill that can be introduced to the youngest toddler pre-readers.
There are three main parts to fluency -accuracy, rate, and expression. A child who is a fluent reader will know words instantly, read at a fast rate and be expressive when reading aloud.
Why is it important to practise?
It helps a child to become a successful independent confident reader. It can also encourage a ‘love of reading’ from an early age.
Using expression and reading for an audience can be such fun once the challenge of ‘working out the words’ is removed and they have gained some confidence to share reading aloud enthusiastically within a safe space like home or the classroom.
Your child will learn to automatically recognise words quickly and group these to understand what they have read. Even when reading silently in their head. Comprehension is therefore improved through fluency.
Fluency is a link between recognising words and comprehending what they have read.
Once your child is no longer concerned with working out what words they are reading, they can concentrate more on the comprehension and understanding of what is happening in the writing they read (the text).
With sight reading and spelling practice your child becomes a more fluent reader.
How this works with pre-readers or early readers
Fluency takes a long time to perfect with a lot of practise over their early school years. Early readers learn to ‘decode’ words by breaking them up into letter sounds and trying to blend those sounds back together to read each word.
They also learn to recognise common words by memorising the word shape and letters in the word. These are often called ‘sight words’ or ‘common exception words’ or ’tricky words’.
Fluency would be slow while they are first trying to remember the look of words ‘by sight’ and “break the word code”. However, we can still help foster fluency alongside this. The rate of fluency will depend on what they are asked to read and how familiar it is.
A child’s first experience of fluency will be from their closest peeps – mummy, and daddy reading them exciting books and stories. Mums and dads are often the best at making the most boring story sound amazing!
We use a variety of voices for characters, intonations to express emotions and feelings, as well as loud and soft voices to depict excitement for example. The reading flows and sounds interesting to the listener – your little one!
It is automatic for us. We no longer need to decode anything except the inference or suspense which we can often instinctively recognise through our experience and comprehension skills.
We have the ability to guess what might be coming up in the story or why this character did what they did, for example.(inference)
If we begin to ‘model’ this while our child watches and later on begin to mention our thoughts and what we are doing when we read, then we are sending our son or daughter subtle fluency messages from the beginning.
After this, they start to join in with words or repetitions, and before you know it they have learnt most of their favourite book off by heart. They are now confidently copying the modeling you have been doing since they were tiny!
Next they can really have some fun learning voices, expressions, and changing intonations and volume to entertain everyone as they ‘read’ (tell) their favourite story!
How you can help to practise fluency at home.
- Introduce books early and have plenty in your home on display.
- Let your child see you reading regularly for pleasure.
- Lots of exposure to print all around, alphabet charts labels.
- Show them plenty of print in different letter styles and sizes -on signs, food, and things all around them.
- Read variety and as often as you can to him or her a from the youngest age.
- Encourage joining in and repetition of words with familiar books.
- Encourage favourite books and re-read the same ones over and over as much as they like.
- Tell them about what you are doing when you read e.g. what you think might happen next or why you made the man talk like that.
- Use voices, expression, body and face reactions, intonation, volume, and varying speed for interest to the listener.
- Talk about what is interesting when you listen to someone read and why you read ‘like that’ for your audience- your precious one!
- Rereading a familiar book many times and trying to tell it in their own words as a story.
- Read the books coming home from school more than once so they may memorise some and begin to demonstrate fluency in their reading after the fourth read.
- Choose a few sentences or a small paragraph of the book to practise reading over and over.
- Have them read along with you or an older sibling -joining in with what they can.
- Record a talking book after practise rereading many times and working on fluency.
- Read along with a youtube clip matching their book or other recording audio or video.
- Keep on modelling fluent reading, don’t stop throughout school. it’s so important- if possible read to them for their enjoyment at least once a day.
- Correct and guide them when they are rereading with the example of how you would do it. Model it, and keep modeling it!
- Daily learning practise to read sight words and decode words – fluency is all about reading accurately and they need to be able to read and understand the words to become fluent.
- Discuss vocabulary words and their meanings.
- Practise spelling words from memory regularly.
- Poetry and rhyming texts are perfect to encourage fluency and rhythm.
- Plays and poetry can be good for performance reading from memory (acting and speaking with fluency) and they provide a reason to reread many times their characters speaking part or poem.
- Sometimes they can reread each sentence in their book a second time after decoding it to see if they can read it more fluently from their memory.
- Encourage them to make his or her reading ‘sound like talking’ after four rereads or once they become more proficient readers.
- Read as they follow along and when you miss a word they say it with as little hesitation as possible. Leave the last word off a sentence for them to fill in.
- Explain to them what fluency is and that you will model it as they follow along silently with the text.
- Tell them how you pause for breath after full stops or periods at the end of a sentence and have shorter pauses for commas.
- Point out your expression or volume when you see an exclamation mark and how your voice/tone goes up when you see a question mark.
- Let them know that using fluency skills shows they understand what they have read.
- Make the learning fun and make sure they are aware that it will take a long time to learn to read fluently like you!
Fluency needs to be taught and practised with some care, however. Teaching a child to speed up their reading too soon can be very counterproductive and could cause them to feel pressure, dislike reading or begin to guess at words, being less careful.
Let your child set the pace through rereading until they find the best speed they are capable of at that time. Speed will come later on naturally. The expression and intonation should have more focus than speed when they are still early readers.
If in doubt always ask your child’s teacher to guide you on when your son or daughter is ready to up the pace and be encouraged to read faster.
Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful and if you tried any of the ideas. I’d love to hear how it went!