Taking time to improve reading fluency helps kids and adults with all learning. Fluency is a core component of reading that describes how well a person reads text accurately, quickly and with expression.
Often speed, the number of words a person can read per minute, is the part that’s emphasized. However, reading accurately and with expression are just as important. Accuracy is crucial for comprehension – being able to understand what was just read. When you’re reading aloud or even silently your voice should not be robotic. Your voice should be expressive, mirroring how people naturally talk and express emotion.
Strategies to improve fluency
Fortunately there are some very simple ways to improve reading fluency.
- Read aloud. This is crucial for building accuracy and expression. Reading aloud is the best way to observe how fluently a person is reading. Reading aloud can also help the reader check their own progress.
- Read at a variety of levels. When people read text that is easy, they will be reading fluently at their top speed. Trying a more difficult text will slow them down. With practice they will eventually be able to read the text faster and with more expression and accuracy.
- Re-read. Yes, it’s a good thing that a child often wants to read the same book over and over again. Speed, expression and accuracy of reading should improve with each re-reading.
- Model good reading to a student. Then have them repeat it. Paired or buddy reading is an excellent way to do this. Read a page of the book aloud, then have them read it. The student will be able to mimic the expressiveness of the more experienced reader.
- Read. The more often someone reads, the better they will become at fluency.
- Listen to audiobooks and read along. When a reader listens to an audiobook, they are hearing an excellent model of fluent reading. It’s also a lot easier for them to listen to texts that are difficult for them to read on their own. After listening to the book and gaining familiarity with it, they can tackle the written text with more confidence and it is usually easier for them to read. Or they can read along in their own book as they listen to the audiobook, which studies have shown greatly improves reading fluency and comprehension. Check out our resource list below for some great read along suggestions.
This fluency post from Reading Rockets is a great introduction with links to lots of other helpful articles.
There is a great list of suggested activities for building fluency in this article Fluency: Instructional Guidelines and Student Activities.
Reading like a robot? This post from Brightly talks about how to help readers read with more expression.
There are a lot of practical tips in this Start With a Book post.
Our Vox books are a new generation of read-along audiobooks for kids that are so much fun. Some of my favorites are Don’t Push The Button, What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night and Si Llevas un Ratón a la Escuela (If You Bring a Mouse to School – in Spanish).
Read alongs are not just for young kids, we have kits that pair children’s, young adult and even adult titles with pre-loaded audiobook players (Playaways). These are called Bookpacks and they include titles like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, A Wrinkle In Time, The Hunger Games and Jane Eyre.
Tip: You could make any book a read along by checking the Playaway or the audiobook download and then also checking out a print copy of the same book. All of these options also allow the listener to adjust the playback speed of the book.
We have read alongs in Hoopla and OverDrive. In Hoopla Digital search for “read along” and you will see several options. Some are ebooks where a narrator reads to the listener while he or she reads along on the page. Others are more like movies where the pictures are more animated and the words appear as captions on the bottom of the screen.
In OverDrive you can find the read alongs by going to the OverDrive page. Click on search and then advanced. Under Formats, click the arrow and choose “OverDrive Read Along” from the list. Then click search. You’ll get a list of hundreds of read along titles.
What are good books to read with a student? Look for books with short selections that you can read aloud together. Look for books that excite the student such as cookbooks, graphic novels, books about cars, books about celebrities or magazines. The possibilities are endless and you don’t need to limit yourself to just fiction.
Poetry books are great for short and fun read-aloud selections. Authors like Jack Prelusky, Calef Brown and Shel Silverstein write hilarious and fun poetry that you’ll both love to read aloud with lots of expression.
For more reading selections, the classic Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease has many more suggestions and lists of different types of books that are great for shared reading. Ask library staff for help finding reading material at the appropriate reading level – we’d love to do that for you.
You can also learn more at our Rally for Literacy on Sat, Nov 16 from 2-4pm in Marvin Auditorium.