Fluency is the ability to read, speak, or write easily, smoothly, and expressively. Fluency skills are the ability to see larger segment and phrases as wholes as an aid to reading and writing more quickly. Many students have problems reading with accuracy and speed. The National Reading Panel found that 44% of fourth graders are non-fluent readers. This means they are reading too slow to keep track of the ideas that are developing in a sentence, let alone across the page or throughout the chapter. If students are reading with too much effort, they do not have enough brain energy to comprehend what they read. Fluency suggests that reading is done smoothly and with little effort.
Examples of fluency skills include:
- the ability to immediately recognize letters and common clusters of letters
- learning frequent words by sight (“sight words”)
- grasping phrases as wholes
A fluent reader has automatic decoding skills and has built up a vocabulary of sight words. A fluent reader has good comprehension skills, reads smoothly and with expression. A fluent reader also recognizes when something doesn’t “sound right”.
Fluent Readers Are…
- Attend to Punctuation
- Use Expression
There is also something called the Matthew Principle (Stanovich, 1986). This states that better readers read more and therefore get better at reading from this practice. Struggling readers avoid reading so lose out on the practice time, the information, and the vocabulary exposure. Slow readers read fewer words per minute so they would have to read many more hours just to keep up with their grade level.
A student with a reading fluency issue may be able to sound out the words but he reads at a painfully slow rate. He often does not recognize familiar “sight” words or reads them differently on the same page. His reading lacks expressions and sounds stiff. This type of reader lacks the rhythm and intonation of a fluent reader. A lack of reading fluency shows up at the phrase, sentence and text level.