Why does it matter how fast my child reads?
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Before I became a reading tutor, I thought of fluency as a secondary skill; something to work on after we mastered decoding skills. If a student can read and decode words, why does it matter how fast he reads? He’ll become faster eventually.
Do I still believe this now?
What is Fluency?
Fluency is the ability to read aloud accurately, quickly and with appropriate expression.
Fluency may not seem important in the early years but think about the reader as he gets older. A 5th grade student reading a class book at 50 words per minute is not going to be able to keep up with his peers reading 180 words per minute. He’ll inevitably fall behind, feel frustrated and miss out on instructional material.
Someone decoding accurately but not fluently, has a reading disability (Shaywitz). We just assume a slow reader will become faster eventually. But, just like reading, fluency must be practiced and drilled consistently.
What do I need to become a fluent reader?
An accurate reader, correctly reads each word in a sentence.
Ex. sentence: The giant dog jumped out of the window.
Student reads it as : The giant dog jumps out the window.
The student had 2 errors. He changed jumped to jumps and removed “of”.
NOT accurate. This may seem trivial when your child is in 1st or 2nd grade, but in the long run, if a reader is not reading each word accurately, comprehension will suffer.
Also known as automaticity.
A reader that reads with automaticity can read a word instantly without sounding it out. Our goal is to have our kids read the word “cub” without having to sound out the c….u…b. Once words become automatic, students begin to read more quickly. If a student is still sounding out each word, he is thinking about how to read the word rather than what the word means.
The following are the grade level norms for reading speeds as found in Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz:
Grade Level Correct Words Read Per Minute
End of Year 1st Grade: 40-60
End of Year 2nd Grade: 80-100
End of Year 3rd Grade: 100-120
4th Grade and Up: 120-180
Just because you don’t read like a robot, doesn’t mean you read with expression.
Reading with expression involves phrasing, stopping at the end of sentences, pausing at commas and reading aloud like you speak -with tonal ups and downs.
For example, a student reading aloud without proper phrasing may read “Brown Brown Bear” as :
A more fluent reader will read it as:
What do you see?/
Without proper phrasing, the meaning of a text can become jumbled or lost.