What Is Reading Fluency?

When we talk about someone being able to read fluently, we are describing how they read, and it reflects how they are able to also ingest what they read.  When a person reads fluently, they are able to do the following:

  • Decode words without having to think about it. If a person has to focus on decoding a word to determine what it is, they are not able to focus on the meaning of the words or the context of what they are reading. They can read text easily and accurately.
  • Because they don’t struggle to decode, they are able to attend to the meaning of what they are reading. When they read aloud, they are able to read with expression and emotion, as they are able to look beyond the decoding portion of reading.  Their reading sounds like they are talking, rather than choppy and awkward.
  • They can recognize words and meaning at the same time.
  • Fluent readers group words and information as they read, they extract meaning from text when they read silently, and they do it automatically.
  • Fluent readers are able to use their long term memory, their experiences and the context of what they are reading to maximize understanding.
  • Reading fluency and reading comprehension are highly correlated. In order to increase comprehension, reading fluency must be good.  The component tasks of reading – decoding, deciphering – require a certain amount of mental energy, and if all the energy is used to simply decode a word, there is less for comprehension and overall learning.  Reading is a multitasking skill, and decoding needs to become automatic in order to begin to master fluency.

It has been noted that students can improve their reading fluency simply through reading more, but decoding needs to be mastered fundamentally, as does the knowledge of punctuation marks and what those add to meaning.  With improved fluency, a person is much better able to concentrate on learning from text.

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