Understanding and Supporting Fluency at Home

based on session handout created by Erica Foley


What is oral reading fluency?


  • the ability to read smoothly, easily, and accurately with appropriate expression and phrasing
  • the ability to read text in a normal speaking voice with appropriate intonation and inflection


Why is fluency important?


Fluency affects comprehension.  To best illustrate this, imagine a reader who is not fluent.  The reader reads word-by-word, may have trouble identifying words, stumbles over words, or has to sound them out.  When this happens, the brain focuses on figuring out words and less memory is available for remembering what was actually read.  When a reader is fluent, s/he word recognition is automatic and the brain has much more memory available for concentrating on comprehension. 


Components of Oral Reading Fluency


Oral reading fluency refers to how someone reads aloud.  It includes accuracy, automatic word recognition, rate, phrasing, and expression.


Accuracy:  Accuracy refers to the correctness of reading.  It is essential that words be read accurately to understand text.


Automatic Word Recognition:  When a reader identifies words quickly and easily, s/he doesn’t have to spend a lot of time decoding words while reading.  This is important because it frees up working memory in the brain that can be spent understanding the text.

Rate:  Rate refers to the speed with which one reads.  Reading too quickly may not allow the brain time to process the text, but reading too slowly can make the reader forget what has been read. 


Phrasing:  This refers to how a reader groups words together when they read aloud.  Ideally, a reader will group words together in phrases.  Poor phrasing occurs when a reader has “choppy reading” or seems to read one word at a time instead of grouping them together. 


Expression: This occurs when a reader changes his/her voice with the reading.  For example, the readers voice may sound sad during a disappointing event or show excitement when something happy happens.  Reading with expression shows that the reader understands what is happening in the text and also makes the reading more interesting for others to listen too.



How Can I Assess Fluency at Home?

By listening to a child read aloud, you can assess his/her fluency.  This can help you know what areas to practice at home to help support fluency development. 


Accuracy and Rate:  Rate is determined by timing someone while they read aloud for one minute.  When the time is up, count the number of words the child read correctly.  This will tell you the number of Words Correct Per Minute (WCPM) for the reader.  The rate a child should read at varies by grade level and throughout the school year, but you can use the chart below to get a general idea of the rate your child should have.



Approximate Rate


70-80 WCPM or higher


90-100 WCPM or higher


120 WCPM or higher


130 WCPM or higher


Automatic Word Recognition:  You can determine this by displaying word cards for 1 second and having the child tell you the word.  If successful, the child can recognize the word automatically.  However, if  the child is unsuccessful, s/he may still be able to decode the word, but should continue practicing it until it can be recognized instantly.  It is very important for children to be able to recognize high frequency words automatically.


Phrasing and Expression:  These qualities can be easily assessed by listening to children read aloud.  If they lack any of these qualities in their oral reading, you can help them by modeling good examples and having them practice it.


Supporting Fluency at Home


  • Read aloud to children to model fluency.
  • Encourage children to practice reading aloud.
  • Re-read stories.   Reading stories multiple times, not necessarily on the same day, helps improve fluency.
  • Encourage children to read using different voices for characters.
  • If children need to improve rate, make a chart of their WCPM for repeated readings of a story to chart their growth. 
  • Use flashcards to practice high frequency words with young children.

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