We’ve all heard that struggling reader, the one who can sound out, but pauses between even the simplest words. Or perhaps he doesn’t stop for periods, and has no change in tone of voice when reading a question. As a result of his slow reading, his comprehension is poor and reading is laborious.
In order to improve his reading, this child needs to work on fluency. Fluency is the ability to read smoothly and with expression. Fluent readers sound like they are having a conversation.
Improving reading fluency is relatively simple, but it does take time. One of the most important tools for developing fluency is repeat reading. When selecting a piece for repeat reading, choose something that is at your child’s reading level. My personal favorite for repeat reading is poetry, and the anthology that I use the most is If Kids Ruled the School, selected by Bruce Lansky. Students also love the Shel Silverstein collections such as A Light in the Attic or Where the Sidewalk Ends. Another great resource for repeat readings can be found at WWW.ReadNaturally.com. They have developed an entire collection of one minute readers at a variety of grade levels.
In addition to counting the number of accurate words, I also like to focus on expression. The best way to measure expression is to use a tape recorder. I have my students record their first time reading a piece. Then they practice it several times, over several days. I encourage them to use their voice, to make the story or poem as lively as possible. When they are able to read the piece at their own word per minute goal, they record the piece again. It is amazing for them to hear their own improvement.
Reading fluency can be improved with just a few minutes of daily practice. I encourage my students to do 3 timed readings a day. It is very easy to do three one-minute readings, and write down the score in under 10 minutes.
You may be wondering what is the value of reading the same piece over and over? Think of developing reading skills like developing musical skills. Every great musician played “Mary had a Little Lamb” dozens of times. Great readers need the same type of practice.
For more information on improving reading skills see my articles on Phonemic Awareness,The Benefits of Reading Aloud,Using Phonics to Teach Spelling