“Fluency” is a tricky thing to define and teach. You’d probably never even heard the term before you had a child learning to read. But good news! I have 5 simple tips to help your child develop this critical reading skill.
First, let’s all get on the same page about fluency. And here’s more good news: you already know fluent reading when you hear it. Fluency is that way of reading which sounds effortless: with no errors, at a quick pace, and with good expression.
Fluency gets a lot of airtime among researchers, so here are a few fast facts (and their sources) to round out this crash course on fluency:
Fluency is that way of reading which sounds effortless: with no errors, at a quick pace, and with good expression. You know it when you hear it.
Here comes the tricky part: fluency develops very rapidly in the first few years of learning to read. So it’s really easy for a child to “fall behind” in this benchmark, but at the same time, it’s really hard to tell as a parent if your child is where they should be.
Enter: my top 5 reading tips for just about any early elementary schooler.
As with any skill I write about in these blogs, if you’re truly concerned about your child’s reading fluency, please reach out to your child’s educational team about it. But these simple tips will help you get some perspective on reading fluency and nurture your child’s fluency growth at home—and how Ello can help!
Top 5 Fluency-Building Tips
1. Work on phonemic awareness
2. Practice sight words
3. Read aloud to your child
4. Assist your child’s reading
5. Use repeated reading
Why this helps: Readers need to be able to decode words quickly and accurately in order to read fluently. This means they eventually need to know all the sounds letters make automatically. And that takes a lot of practice, even beyond Kindergarten.
What to do: Grab some sound cards (these ones are great–and free!) and get practicing! Spending just a couple of minutes a day on this skill will make their decoding quicker and more accurate, which is crucial for fluency.
Why this helps: Much the same reason as why practicing phonemic awareness helps: if your child knows sight words like the back of their hand, they don’t have to use time and mental energy on remembering them while reading.
What to do: Ask your child’s teacher for a list of sight words to practice that are appropriate for your child’s grade and reading level. You can also use the Dolch word list. Pick 3-4 a week to practice over and over.
Why this helps: When you read to your child, you’re modeling what fluent reading sounds like. Additionally, you’re helping grow your child’s vocabulary, which is critical for decoding and comprehension.
What to do: Just read! Aim for 15-20 minutes of read-aloud time a day from a book that’s super interesting to your child. And it’s fine if it’s above their own reading level.
Spending just a couple of minutes a day on phonemic awareness and sight words will make your child’s reading quicker and more accurate, which is crucial for fluency.
Why this helps: It takes thousands of hours of practice to be able to read fluently on the first try. Re-reading books gives your child the opportunity to focus less on decoding and more on reading with expression.
What to do: Encourage your child to read books again and again, especially their favorites. The Ello app makes re-reading books especially appealing, since your child can earn extra stars in the app with each re-read.
Why this helps: When you help your child read, you’re “lightening the load” for their brain. Teachers do this all the time with choral reading, paired reading, and having students read aloud with audiobooks.
What to do: Enlist help from Ello! Ello takes assisted reading to the next level by not only modeling fluent reading of a sentence when they need it, but also by always modeling the decoding skills they need to read the word. It’s like a super combo of Tip 1 and Tip 4.
Developing fluency is like training for a sport. Focus on phonemic awareness and sight words is like building fitness. Reading aloud and assisted reading is like good coaching. And repeated reading is like practice before the game. It takes time and commitment, but it pays off in the end!