Reading fluency is the ability to read accurately, quickly and expressively.
Fluent readers are able to focus on reading for meaning.


For children with good reading fluency, reading becomes a natural, enjoyable and meaningful experience. Fluent reading allows children to focus on comprehension and extracting meaning – the very reason we read.

‘Oral reading fluency’ refers to reading text passages aloud. Fluent readers are able to read a passage aloud for the first time with an easy speech rhythm, few errors or self-corrections, changes in their volume and pitch, and grammatically appropriate pauses and emphases that guide both reader and listener to the author’s intended meaning.

By contrast, for low progress readers, reading aloud is a slow, halting and error-prone experience, and one in which the reader is unlikely to understand what has been read.

When learning to read, students must simultaneously manage numerous complicated cognitive processes. For beginners and struggling readers, the effort of decoding words consumes most of their attention, and leaves few resources available for comprehension.


When these decoding skills become automatic through practice, they become instantly accessible, with minimal effort. This allows students to focus on reading for meaning.

Reading fluency difficulties have been shown to be the single biggest concern for more than 90% of children with under-developed reading comprehension. Even relatively small increases in fluency gains are valuable, as they add to motivation toward reading, a quality known to increase time spent in the activity.

Reading fluency requires well established letter, word part, and whole word recognition. For some students, fluency may develop simply from practice at reading. Students whose fluency does not develop easily may require significant additional support. Early intervention when a student displays slow progress in oral reading fluency is essential. Fluency is among the most difficult components to rectify among older struggling students, and early intervention is more efficient and effective than are later attempts.


“The demonstrated effectiveness of guided oral reading compared to the lack of demonstrated effectiveness of strategies encouraging independent silent reading suggests the importance of explicit compared to more implicit instructional approaches for improving reading fluency.”
National Reading Panel (2000)
“Mastery of reading fluency …is a significant positive predictor of later reading skills in primary grades even after student demographic information and initial reading levels are controlled.”
Park (2015)
“If the ultimate goal of reading instruction is proficient reading comprehension then reading fluency, both automatic word decoding and prosodic reading, need to be part of the instructional repertoire offered to teachers and students, especially struggling readers.”
Rasinski, Rikli & Johnston (2009)
The class room

KEY RESEARCH FINDINGS

Neuro-imaging techniques have been used to compare the effort required when both capable and struggling students are engaged in reading.

Richards et al. (2000) noted that struggling readers used four to five times as much physical energy (oxygen, glucose) as the capable readers in order to complete the same phonologically-based reading tasks. This difference was not observed when non-language tasks were presented.

It is therefore unsurprising that struggling students claim that reading is too hard, and reduced motivation to read becomes a serious secondary obstacle for dysfluent readers.


RECOMMENDED READING

Griffiths, Y. & Stuart, M. (2013).
Reviewing evidence-based practice for pupils with dyslexia and literacy difficulties.
Journal of Research in Reading, 36(1), pp. 96-116.

National Reading Panel (2000).
Teaching Children to Read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction.

Park, P., Chaparro, E.A., Preciado, J. & Cummings, K.D. (2015).
Is earlier better? Mastery of reading fluency in early schooling.
Early Education and Development, DOI: 10.1080/10409289.2015.1015855.

Rasinski, T., Homan, S. & Biggs, M. (2009).
Teaching reading fluency to struggling readers: Method, materials, and evidence.
Reading & Writing Quarterly, 25(2), pp. 192-204.

Rasinski, T., Rikli, A. & Johnston, S. (2009).
Reading fluency: More than automaticity? More than a concern for the primary grades?
Literacy Research and Instruction, 48, 350-361.

Richards, T.L., Corina, D., Serafini, S., Steury, K., Echelard, D.R., Dager, S.R., Marro, K., Abbott, R.D., Maravilla, K.R. & Berninger, V.W. (2000).
The effects of a phonologically-driven treatment for dyslexia on lactate levels as measured by Proton MRSI.
American Journal of Neuroradiology, 21, 916-922.