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The Third Pillar of Reading - Fluency

My apologies for not posting the past couple of weeks - I developed pneumonia just before Thanksgiving and had to camp out on the couch for a couple of weeks. But now I'm back and ready to explore another one of the 5 pillars of reading - Fluency!

Contrary to popular belief, a fluent reader is NOT one who reads quickly. Reading rate is part of fluency, but a reader can be fluent and slow at the same time.

In a nutshell, fluency is a combination of accuracy and smoothness of expression. A fluent reader is one who recognizes words with automaticity and reads them with proper phrasing of passages, putting in appropriate pauses and intonation. Think about a newscaster on television who reads the daily news - they speak smoothly, emphasizing the expected words and phrases, and convey their message accurately and efficiently.

The three components of fluency are said to be accuracy, rate, and prosody, so let's consider each one in a bit more depth.

Accuracy, just as you would think, means decoding each word in a passage correctly. When a reader encounters a word, they must know how to attack it by considering all the letters/sounds and coming up with the right word. This is often challenging, especially when presented with similar words together. I frequently struggle when I see the words "know" and "now" next to each other, and I have to take a moment to decode them correctly, which affects my fluency.

Rate, also known as speed, is the least important aspect of fluency (in my opinion), although it does affect the overall impression given by the reader. Readers who can decode accurately usually attain adequate speed when reading to be considered fluent. the average reading speed for an adult is around 200-250 words per minute when reading silently, but there is, of course, a great deal of variation. I find that I read more slowly when I'm reading a challenging text, like a research article, and more quickly when I'm reading a novel for pleasure. What really matters is whether I understand what I'm reading, not how quickly I read it.

Prosody refers to the patterns of stress and intonation used when reading or speaking, and it can greatly affect the meaning of a sentence. Consider the following sentences:

I didn't take the RED scarf. vs. I didn't take the red SCARF.

In the first version, you may have taken the blue scarf, and in the second one, you may have taken the red hat. Changing the word that is stressed changes the meaning of the sentence. Likewise, when reading, it's important to know which words to stress and how the sentences flow into each other, all of which affects reading fluency.

Fluency has a direct correlation to comprehension, as a more fluent reader will more easily comprehend what they've read. One of the best ways to improve reading fluency is to read aloud with your developing reader, so they can hear what the passages should sound like. Spend some time reading together, taking it in turns and talking about what you're reading, so your child has a chance to practice and progress in fluency.

Please comment below if you have questions about fluency or any other aspects of reading.

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