According to the National Reading Panel (2000), fluency is the ability to read text with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. Fluent readers:
Recognize words automatically
Read aloud effortlessly and with expression
Do not have to concentrate on decoding
Can focus on comprehension
Research continues to show that children with reading disabilities need continued and structured practice in reading fluency. After a child learns how to decode (or sound out) words, they need the ability to read those words with a level of speed and accuracy. Below are the standard benchmarks set forth by the DIBELs program through the University of Oregon.
You can help your child with fluency by simply listening to him or her read aloud to you. Experts recommend that you do this AT LEAST four times a week for a chunk of time appropriate for the child's age and ability to sustain attention (I recommend 20 minutes for most students at a third grade level). Spending time reading together builds a pattern of enjoyment and good practice.
Let me mention at this point that simply asking your struggling reader to "read," especially silently, does not help him/her build fluency. In order for success to be noted and gains to be made, your child must read aloud. You can monitor, then, for errors, give your child praise, and explain corrections.
According to Sally Shaywitz, the author of an outstanding book Overcoming Dyslexia, one of the single best things a parent can do with their child to build fluency is to do something called "paired reading." In a period of 15 minutes, the following steps are followed:
1. Parents read a brief story or passage to their child.
2. Parent and child read that story or passage together a few times.
3. The child reads the passage alone back to the parent.
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