Decoding vs. Fluency
Reading remediation generally involves explicit phonics instruction which provides children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties the skills to decode new words as they are encountered. With repeated practice, this instruction may over time produce a child who possesses a high level of word decoding accuracy. Unfortunately, it is possible to become an accurate decoder while still lacking the speed and efficiency to become a fluent reader.
What is Reading Fluency?
Reading fluency involves reading text effortlessly with speed, accuracy, and fluidity. Fluent readers recognize most words automatically. Fluency further entails not only automatic word recognition, but also appropriate phrasing, rhythm, and intonation.
Struggling readers often read in an expressionless monotone which is distinctly lacking in flow. This is because they’re frequently unaware of the appropriate places to pause within and between sentences. Fluent reading, by contrast, is done effortlessly and follows a natural pattern similar to everyday speech.
Why is Reading Fluency Important?
Reading comprehension is impacted by the speed and accuracy with which words are decoded. Fluent readers can focus their attention on the meaning of text being read because they are not burdened with pausing to decode unfamiliar words. This allows them to simultaneously read and comprehend. Students with dyslexia or related learning disabilities devote so much energy to figuring out unknown words that comprehension of what they have read suffers.
Tips to Improve Fluency
Reading fluency can be improved through frequent drill and practice. A combination of both word and text level exercises can facilitate improved fluency.
Single Word Drills – Timed readings of words that follow a specific phonetic pattern can help to increase the speed of individual word recognition.
Phrasing and Chunking Drills – Students who read sentences word for word can benefit by practicing reading short phrases of familiar words. The goal is to provide practice in reading whole phrases so that the student learns instinctively where to pause within a sentence.(Example: went to sleep, out of time, under the table)
Guided Oral Reading – Students read an assigned passage aloud several times while receiving direct feedback and guidance from a parent or teacher. Regular guided oral reading is effective in increasing word recognition, decoding accuracy, speed and fluency. Research has found that four readings of the same text are usually required for mastery by most students.
Modeling – Modeling entails providing struggling readers with good models of what fluent reading should sound like. This can be accomplished by a parent or teacher reading aloud to the student to allow him to hear correct phrasing, pausing, and intonation. Students may also benefit from the use of assistive technology which allows them to read along with recorded books, or reading software which models fluent reading for them.
Fluency training is an essential component of reading instruction for students with impaired reading skills. With consistent practice in fluency training the child with reading difficulties can transition from being just an accurate decoder to an independent reader who fluently reads and comprehends the text he/she is reading.