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4 Steps To Boost Your Child's Reading Fluency

african-american mom and dad help their son and daughter read a book that dad is pointing at and everyone is looking down at the book

Does time move in slow motion while your child misreads and skips over words; takes long, awkward pauses in the middle of sentences; completely disregards end marks; and fails to understand what they just read? Well, I’ve got a pretty sweet topic to help bring those woes to an end. Reading fluency is a skill that definitely takes practice, but do not worry, it's not like juggling flaming bowling pins! 😅 It's more like cooking a meal - the more you do it, the better you get.🍴👩‍🍳

family of mom and two children all looking at a yellow book mom is holding while son is pointing to and reading the book

As a tutor, I often receive the question “How can I tell if my child is a fluent reader?” It's actually one of the reasons I started tutoring - I love helping kids discover the joy of reading and writing while also supporting parents and guardians with their child’s educational goals. 📚✏️ There's nothing quite like seeing that spark in a child's eye when they finally get it! 🔥

Being a fluent reader can also help your child develop a love of books and feel confident in their reading abilities.

To answer the question posed above, I'll need to give you a bit more information. Keep reading to learn all about what reading fluency is, why it is important, and how YOU can help your child improve their fluency starting today.

Fluency is all about how well your child can read with expression, accuracy, rhythm, and smoothness. Each part is vital like the legs of a stool - if one of those legs is missing, the stool won't stand. So, a fluent reader is someone who can read accurately, at a good pace, and with an expression that flows smoothly and matches the story. Think of it this way: fluent readers must be all E.A.R.S. to understand and enjoy what they are reading.

The good news is that with practice, anyone can become a fluent reader. It's all about finding the right books and activities that your child enjoys and practicing reading consistently. And as they become more fluent, they'll start to enjoy reading even more.

Reading What?

woman wearing beige short-sleeved shirt standing looking at camera has confused face blue background with text what is reading fluency anyway?

Okay, so what in the world is reading fluency…really? Reading fluency is more than just how quickly your child can read - it's an essential skill for them to master. 📚 In fact, it can predict how well they’ll do in the future regarding reading and comprehension. So, the more fluent your child is, the more likely they'll be able to understand what they're reading, thrive in school, and communicate effectively. 💪🏾

Being a fluent reader can also help your child develop a love of books and feel confident in their reading abilities. 🥰 When your kiddo knows they can read well, they're more likely to keep reading and exploring new stories.

Then what are the 4 steps to boost reading fluency? There are four key areas: expression, accuracy, rhythm, and smoothness. Let's break it down!

Expression: reading with feeling and making the story come alive


Expression: Reading That Makes Stories Come Alive

Expression is all about reading with style and emotion - it's what makes a story come to life. 🌟 When we talk about expression in reading, we're talking about how your child uses their voice to convey the meaning of the text.

This can include things like tone, pitch, volume, and emphasis. Basically, it's all the things that make reading out loud fun and engaging. 😄

When your child uses expression, they're able to convey the emotions, attitudes, and intentions of the characters in the story. It's like giving each character their own unique voice. 🎭 Plus, it helps to set the overall mood and tone of the piece.

Reading with expression can make even the most boring text come alive, and it can also help with comprehension. When your child understands the emotions and attitudes of the characters, they're better able to understand the meaning of the text as a whole.

Just remember, it's not about being perfect or getting everything right. It's about having fun and enjoying the story. So, don't be afraid to try different voices or experiment with different tones. You might be surprised at how much your child enjoys it. 📖

To Improve Expression:

  • Practice reading aloud at home with eye contact, good posture, and energy (no matter what someone else thinks).

  • Be loud enough so that everyone can hear you clearly but not so loud that people have trouble hearing what they need or want from their day-to-day lives.

Plus, it can actually improve comprehension because the listener can follow along with the flow of the text more easily...

Accuracy: Reading Words Correctly Boosts Fluency

Accuracy is a big part of reading fluency - it's all about being able to read a word correctly. 📖 Even if your child is a super speedy reader, if they're not reading words correctly, they're not going to be able to understand what they're reading. 😕 That's why teachers in elementary school are always completing checks for accuracy - it's super important.

a child is sitting down holding an open picture book and tracking along the words with one finger

What does accuracy actually look like? When you're listening to your child read, you'll want to pay attention to whether they're sounding out each syllable of every word or just skipping over tricky letters. If they're not even trying to figure out what a word says, they're not being accurate. And without accuracy, your child won't ever become a fluent reader.

Not to worry though, there are several ways to help your child improve their accuracy. You can start by encouraging them to slow down and take their time with each word. If they're struggling with a particular word, have them try sounding it out or breaking it down into smaller parts. And if they're still having trouble, don't be afraid to step in and help them out.

Remember, reading should be fun and enjoyable, so while accuracy is an important component, don't stress too much. Just keep practicing and encouraging your child, and they'll get there in no time. 🤗

To Improve Accuracy:

  • Make sure that your child is using their decoding strategies while they're reading. This means looking at each letter or letter team in a word (e.g. “b-e” in the word “be” or “ch-ea-p” in “cheap”) and sounding it out before moving on to the next one (or sometimes more than one).

  • Practice your child’s grade or age-level sight words. Most schools use high-frequency words, also called "sight words", during the early years of school. If you are unfamiliar with which sight words your child should be practicing, check out the two most popular sight word lists: Fry Sight Words and Dolch Sight Words. Remember, most "sight words" follow regular letter-sound patterns. Children should practice the words to recognize them automatically.

  • Listen to models of fluent reading, like read-alouds or audiobooks. This can help children develop an ear for fluent reading and pick up on the natural rhythms and intonations of spoken language.

  • Use repeated reading exercises, where children read a passage several times until they can read it fluently and accurately. This can help children develop automaticity in reading and improve their reading speed and accuracy.

Rhythm: Reading Should Have a Natural Flow

Rhythm is also an extremely important part of reading fluency. 📚 It's actually the most important aspect of reading, believe it or not. When we talk about reading rhythm, we're talking about the natural flow and pace of your child’s oral reading. 🎶 It's all about being able to read smoothly and at the right speed, without stumbling over words or pausing in weird places.

What does a good reading rhythm actually look like? Well, it's all about having a consistent pace, pausing at the right spots (like at punctuation marks), and using a natural rise and fall in pitch and tone. When your child has a good rhythm, it makes their reading more interesting and enjoyable for the listener.

Plus, it can actually improve comprehension because the listener can follow along with the flow of the text more easily AND your child (as the reader) will be having more fun, thus they are more invested in the story. 🤓

Developing a good reading rhythm takes practice and attention to the text, as well as an understanding of the structure and meaning of the words and sentences. But once your child gets the hang of it, reading will be a breeze. 🌬️

To Improve Rhythm:

  • Use books that contain short sentences and one-syllable words, like "cat," "dog," and "horse," as they are helpful in developing good rhythm.

  • Point out punctuation to your child to guide their reading rhythm. Explain that they need to pause briefly at commas, longer at periods, and adjust their tone and pitch accordingly to convey the meaning of the text.

  • Use music or other rhythmic indicators to help form a steady beat or pulse while reading. This can help develop a sense of timing and pacing in reading.

boy is sitting down with stress on his face his head in his hands with a stack of books on the table beside him

Smoothness: Reading With Natural Word Transitions

Did you know that smoothness is the last stage of reading fluency? 📖 It's all about being able to read quickly, smoothly, and naturally without stopping or hesitating. When we talk about smoothness, we're really talking about a combination of things - expression, accuracy, rhythm, and timing.

It's not just about how fast you can read, but also how well you can pronounce each word and transition smoothly from one word to the next without pausing too long or skipping any words altogether.

Why in the world is smoothness so important? Well, when your child is smooth, it means they're able to read with ease and confidence. 🤩 It's like they're really in the zone! Plus, it makes the reading more enjoyable for both your child (as the reader) as well as the listener.

And just like with the other aspects of reading fluency, smoothness takes practice. But with a little bit of effort, your child will be reading like a pro in no time. 🏆

To Improve Smoothness:

  • Encourage your child to practice reading aloud regularly, which can help them develop their pacing and phrasing skills.

  • Provide them with books that are appropriate for their independent reading level (not always the same as their age group) and that contain short sentences and simple words, which can make it easier for them to maintain a steady rhythm while reading.

  • It's also important to ensure that your child is comfortable and relaxed while reading, as tension and stress can negatively impact their fluency.

  • Consider enlisting the help of a reading tutor. We can provide your child with personalized instruction and feedback on their reading skills - read more below.

woman with braided hair and smiling face sitting in a wheelchair reading a book to a young smiling girl with curly hair sitting beside her

Start Reading Fluency Early: The Earlier, The Better

Friends, I can't stress this enough - the earlier and more you read aloud to your child, the better! 📖 As they grow up and start reading on their own, they'll be able to use the skills you modeled in all kinds of ways. From understanding what they're reading and making sense of new vocabulary words or concepts, to improving their overall comprehension skills.

But don't worry if you haven't started yet, it's never too late to encourage better reading with your child. Reading fluency is super important for children to develop because it helps them become better readers, listeners, and speakers. And if you're worried about your child's reading fluency, just remember there are things that YOU can do as soon as today to help improve their reading ability.

Worried About Your Child’s Reading?

If you're worried about your child's reading skills - especially their fluency - I want you to take a deep breath. 🤗 Reading fluency is a skill that can be improved with practice and time. To simply and quickly implement the before-mentioned tips to improve your child's reading fluency overall, try:

  • reading aloud together every day (or almost every day). This will help your child get used to hearing language in context and develop good pronunciation habits early on.

  • use picture books to introduce new words or concepts before transitioning into chapter books. This can help your child develop their comprehension skills while also making it easier for them to understand than if they were just reading textbooks or chapter books alone. (Even your middle and high school kiddos love a good picture book) ;) 📚

Undoubtedly, I want your child to succeed on their path to literacy greatness. Enlist me as your child’s literacy coach to provide the reinforcement and practice needed, and to gain the confidence to become a successful reader.

If you’re interested in tutoring services, sign up for a free consultation. As always, I am here to support your child’s journey.

Once a strong, consistent support system and an individualized plan are established for your child, the sky's the limit for their progress. It really does take a village for a child to succeed, so let's build a solid foundation together today. 🌟

And if you’ve found this post helpful, join my mailing list for more tips, resources, and special offers.

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Music and rhythm DEFINITELY helped me with my reading fluency as a kid. Thanks for sharing! ⭐️

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