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Fluency: A key to reading success

Despite significant investments at the national, state and local levels, many students still struggle in reading fluency

fluency-reading-writingAccording to a recent National Assessment of Educational Progress report, approximately 33 percent of fourth grade students read at a level considered “below basic.”

Over the past 20 years, the percentage of fourth graders identified as “below basic” has remained over 30 percent. Clearly, new and different ways are needed for delivering effective reading instruction for struggling readers.

What is the source of concern for students who struggle? Difficulties in word decoding and reading fluency can be major barriers to proficient reading.

Indeed, the Common Core State Standards identify word recognition and reading fluency as foundational competencies necessary for growth in reading.

Yet, despite its importance, fluency instruction is often limited in classrooms.

One reason is that many see fluency only as a quest for speed. Because word recognition automaticity, a component of fluency, is often assessed through reading speed, instructional methods for fluency have evolved into increasing students’ reading rate, without regard for comprehension.

As a result, fluency instruction has been deemphasized in the classroom. In the International Reading Association’s 2013 “What’s Hot; What’s Not” survey of literacy scholars, reading fluency was ranked as “not hot.”

Appropriate instruction in fluency — without emphasizing speed reading — is sorely needed.

(Next page: Two critical components of reading fluency)

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