Once upon a time there was a race car driver and he needed speed for his reading car. He often would run out of gas and he couldn’t figure out why. He was able to decode the words as he was running down the race track. So he asked his pit boss, “Why am I not able to finish on time and understand what I have read?” His pit boss told him he needed to know lots of site words, be able to decode unknown words, and to know why you are reading. The pit boss handed him a brochure with information on fluency. The race car drive sat down and started to read.
When text is uninterrupted by decoding, the reading of the text is fluid, and expressive fluency is achieved. David Sousa (2006), states, “Fluency is the ability to read a text orally with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. Children who lack fluency read slowly and laboriously, often making it difficult for them to remember what has been read…” (p. 187). Readers need three things to be fluent, large cache of sight words, be able to analyze unfamiliar words, and understand that the purpose of reading is comprehension (Caldwell and Leslie, 2009).
Students with a large cache of words known by sight and do not need to decode are better able to read with speed (Braunger and Lewis, 2006). Braunger and Lewis (2006) describes why fluency is important to comprehension, “…Automaticity in word recognition is important because it frees up the reader’s attention to the meaning…” (p. 137). They are not stumbling to decode each and every word. Braunger and Lewis (2006) caution, “Automatic word processing does not guarantee comprehension any more than lack of oral fluency signals a lack of comprehension” (p. 137).
Fountas and Pinnell (2006) describe where literacy is from, “All literacy learning, including the development of fluent reading, is grounded in oral language” (p. 75). When a student reads aloud fluently, the sound is smooth and pleasant. A non-fluent reader could show the following:
- sounds like a reading of unconnected words
- tends to repeat words or phrases
- loses his or her place
- little variation in tone or expression
- ignores punctuation and sentence brakes (Caldwell and Leslie, 2009).
A fluent reader that is able uses skills to decode and analyze unfamiliar words while reading (Caldwell and Leslie, 2009). Caldwell and Leslie (2009) point out that, “Appropriate reading rate is usually a signal that the reader is automatically identifying words either from memory or as a result of efficient letter-sound matching” (p. 96). Fluency can also occur when a student has experience with other texts that are similar (Fountas and Pinnell, 2006).
Finally, when a student understands what they are reading they are able to read with expression (Caldwell and Leslie, 2009). Fountas and Pinnell (2006) describe what fluent readers do, “As they read, they notice dialogue and differentiate it from other parts of the text. The attention is on the meaning of the text” (p. 64). Fluency is also depended upon the student performance in different areas:
- familiarity with concepts in the text
- familiarity with genre or type
- accessibility of language structures
- personal vocabulary
- number of recognized words in the text
- number of words that are easy to solve (Fountas and Pinnell 2006).
Caldwell and Leslie (2009) stress the importance of why fluency is important, “Because they do not have to analyze every word, they can direct their attention to meaning, and because they understand what they read, they enjoy and appreciate reading and are motivate to read more” (p. 96).
Braunger, J., Lewis, J. (2006). Building a knowledge base in reading: Second edition. Newark DE:
International Reading Association, Urbana, IL: The National Council of Teachers of English.
Caldwell, S., Leslie, L. (2009). Intervention strategies to follow informal reading inventory assessment: So what do I do now?. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Fountas, I., Pinnell, G. (2006). Teaching comprehending and fluency: Thinking, talking,and writing about reading, k-8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Sousa, D. (2006). How the brain learns: Third edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
A couple of months later…
The race car driver was able to run down the reading tack with speed and fluency.