How Does Fluency Help Comprehension?

Fluency

In our very first series, we discuss how children learn to read. Last week we talked about the second element in learning to read, phonics. Today, we’ll discuss the third element in learning to read, fluency.

Are you wondering what fluency has to do with learning to read? Most of us think that you have to learn to read first and then become fluent. Well, we are not talking about being fluent in the English language, like a native speaker. At least, not yet! We mean the children’s ability to recognize the words at their reading level.

Suppose your child learns words from the ag word family, i.e., bag, hag, lag, nag, rag, tag.  Some children look at the word and go through the naming of the sounds /b//a//g/ and blend them slowly to say ‘bag.’ Others look at the word, recognize it immediately, and say ‘bag.’ How does your child read these words?  In the first example, the children are still learning to decode using the phonics principles. In the second instance, the children are fluent readers at their reading level. The key phrase here is “at their reading level.”

Fluency

Fluency is one of the five essential reading skills a reader uses to understand the text. A fluent reader must read with accuracy, speed, and expression to comprehend the written passage.

Let’s look at these a little deeper.

To be able to understand the written text, the reader must first identify most of the words correctly. Otherwise, what they understand will be quite different from what is in the text.

Speed of reading here means that the child should recognize the words easily without going through the steps of letter recognition, letter to sound matching, and then blending.  Young readers recognize the words quickly if they are exposed to them many times. This is one of the reasons to encourage our children to reread books.

Reading with expression helps the reader understand what is happening in the text.

Notice how your children read their books. Do they read the words effortlessly without stumbling over the words? Or are there long pauses while they try to sound out the individual words? Can you hear the expression in the narration as the characters ask a question or show surprise? Do they read in phrases, pausing appropriately? Or is their voice monotonous and without breaks?

Listen to the following read aloud.

This child reads with accuracy, speed and expression. She understands the text while reading. So, when something doesn’t make sense, she checks the text. As she engages with the text she recognizes her mistakes. What does she do? The child goes back, rereads the sentence correcting herself. Did you notice how she pauses a few times? That’s her trying to decode the new word. She is still not saying the letter sounds aloud to blend them-she does it all in her head.

Why is fluency necessary in learning to read?

 Reading fluency is the link between word recognition and comprehension. A fluent reader spends less time decoding the word and focuses more on understanding what the text conveys. Reading becomes an enjoyable and interactive activity, and the child is motivated to find out what happens next.

On the other hand, struggling readers spend so much effort and time decoding words that they lose track of what they read. Reading word by word, they focus less on understanding the context or the content. Their interaction with the text is limited. These children don’t think about what is happening in the book—whether it is exciting or connected to something they already know. They read without any expression, in a monotonous tone that doesn’t reflect how the story’s characters feel or act. These children want to be done with reading.

To read fluently, a reader must have strong phonics skills. From kindergarten to first and second grade, children are still learning the foundations of phonics. Once they show an ability to recognize familiar words quickly, you will see a jump in their fluency.

You know what? Fluency has a direct influence on whether your child will be a lifelong reader. When children learn to read for pleasure and understand what they read, they will seek out books independently. That’s what we want for our children, isn’t it?

Read more here:

Fuency

Other podcasts in this series:

The Five Elements of Learning to Read

Phonemic Awareness before Phonics

That Magical Skill Called Phonics

Fostering Fluency at Home

Why is Vocabulary Important in Learning to Read?

Tips To Improve Vocabulary

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension at Home

How Does Fluency Help Comprehension?

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