Fluency: A key to reading success


In wide reading practice, which is the type of reading practice generally found in classrooms, students’ volume of reading is maximized by regularly reading new, never-before-read materials. But what about students who are not good readers?

They read the text once but they don’t read it or understand it well. For these students, as well as normally developing readers, it is important to occasionally ask them to read a text multiple times until they can read it fluently and with good comprehension. This is known as repeated or deep reading.

Research shows that when students read a text several times, with feedback, they improve their performance on the practiced text as well as their performance on new texts.

The challenge for teachers, however, is to make repeated readings an authentic and purposeful activity. One way to is to make it a performance activity. If students know they will eventually read the text orally, they have an authentic purpose for their practice.

Instead of reading for speed, they aim to make their reading meaningful to the audience. They learn to manipulate the prosodic aspects of their oral reading to enhance the listeners’ understanding. This type of practice helps readers improve their word recognition, reading rate, prosody, comprehension, and motivation for reading.

New approaches

Despite significant investments in training and materials for teaching reading, we have not made great progress in helping more students achieve the level of literacy development necessary for success. The old methods of instruction are not sufficient to help students who find reading difficult.

If they were, we should have seen a decline in the incidence of students with reading problems. However, not much has changed.

Fluency instruction is one approach that offers great potential for many students, particularly those who experience difficulty in reading. Modeling fluent reading, providing support and assistance while reading, and wide and repeated reading are the building blocks of fluency instruction.

Making reading fluency a part of daily classroom instructional routines, through traditional and technology-based approaches, can accelerate the progress of students who struggle — and turn disinterested readers into interested readers.

Timothy Rasinski, Ph.D., is a professor of literacy education at Kent State University and director of its award-winning reading clinic. He has written over 200 articles and authored, co-authored or edited over 50 books or curriculum programs on reading education. His website is www.timrasinski.com. He can be reached at trasinsk@kent.edu.

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