Reading Fluency

Anyone get a fluency reading score coming home from school for their school-age child recently? You may have recently received a report that gives a single number which represents the number of words your child read in one minute. Anyone wondering why we are timing our students to see how many words they can read in one minute?

I have very mixed feelings about these fluency scores and the message they send to our students. After all, why would we want to teach our kids to read as fast as they can? This flies in the face of everything I know as a reading specialist. However, there are a two redeeming things about these fluency scores. The first is they are quick and easy to give. Schools are desperately looking for data these days to drive instruction, and when you are talking about giving assessments to hundreds of kids multiple times a year, it gets complicated. The second reason is that research shows that a fluency score is one (albeit ONLY one), indicator of future success as a reader.

I have sat and given hundreds of these assessments for the past couple years and here is one thing I know. There are students that have beautiful command of the text, with perfect tone and pace that sound much better than students who race through the text meaninglessly and end up with a higher fluency score. I just wish they wouldn’t call it a fluency score. Speed is only one small part of fluency and that message is unfortunately lost on many students who are simple being asked to read fast.

By the way, how do you improve your child’s fluency? Two simple things. Have them read often and make time to read aloud TO them to give them that model of fluency. Time for bedtime story!

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