One of the terms parents will hear more of as the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) are implemented across the USA is Fluency. It is associated with the English Language Arts (ELA) standards that bridge courses such as English, Social Studies and Science.
But, just what is fluency? Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.
How can I know if my child is ‘fluent’? When reading silently, fluent readers recognize words automatically. They group words to help them understand what they are reading. Since fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words they can focus attention on what the text means. They make connections among the ideas in the text and their personal knowledge. When reading aloud fluent readers do so without effort and put expression into what they read. Their reading sounds almost like they are speaking.
What are signs my child needs to improve their fluency? When fluency is not fully developed the child tends to read slow since they are continuously trying to understand what they are reading. It is almost a word by word challenge for them to comprehend what they are reading. They need to focus attention on figuring out the words thus leaving little time or energy for understanding the text as a whole. Reading aloud tends to be slow, choppy, filled with silence and lacks emotion. As a result of low fluency the reader, both children and adults, find reading to be boring, challenging, and a chore. Thus, they tend to avoid reading and books because it is not pleasurable. When they do pick-up a book they will tend to see if there are pictures in it.
How can I improve fluency? Improving fluency is best to start at an early age. It starts with the parent reading aloud to their child and discussing the meaning of the words and story with the child as questions arise. This models fluent reading to your child and also creates a desire to be able to read and be a part of the story.
As they get older have them read along with you. Try to read with emotion and attend to punctuation in the text. Take time to ask questions that help the child express what they think is meant by the words and story. Remember to let them know what you think it means.
As they get even older have your child read aloud and reread to add emotion and tonal color to their reading. Trade off reading and challenge each other to see who is the more compelling reader. When reading is interrupted by word-solving or self-correcting help your child understand this is OK. Answer the questions and then go back and have them read it again. Recording their reading can also be fun and is a good way to help them feel more comfortable with their voice. Also remember that storytelling around the table or campfire without books is also a great device for improving fluency as well as memory, creativity, acting, diction and so many others!
Don’t forget to teach your child how to use a dictionary to find the meaning of words they don’t know. This can also be done very easily on Nooks, Tablets and Computers, but remember they should still know how to do it with a printed book. Remember that you are the best teacher for your child and getting the basics down. School and teachers build off what you give to your child so the more you give them the better for your child. Sure it takes time but it is rewarding!