Fluency: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Fluency: What It Is and Why It's Important  |  Red Apple ReadingFluency can be broken down into 3 components: the ability to read a passage accurately (without having to stop and decode individual words), at a reasonable pace (not too fast or too slow), and with proper expression (paying attention to punctuation). Let’s explore the different facets of fluency and how you can help your child master each one. For convenience, we’ve listed individual interventions under each component, but you’ll quickly find that these activities are beneficial for all aspects of fluency!

It’s imperative for children to read accurately if they are going to have any real sense of what a passage is about.

  • Review Unfamiliar Words – You can help your child with this aspect of fluency by going over any new words with her before she reads the text. If she is reading a book about birds, for instance, you might introduce the word chickadee beforehand.
  • Repeated and Timed Readings – Another way you can help your little one improve her accuracy is with timed repeated readings. Simply set a timer for one minute. Let your kiddo read the same passage aloud to you several times, while keeping up with how many words she gets correct each time. Chances are you will see improvement with each reading!

Pace is another critical component of fluency. Reading should be performed at a reasonable rate.

  • Repeated and Timed Readings – Yep, the above timed reading activity will help your kid with pace as well! When children don’t have to stop and decode individual words, their pace naturally improves.
  • Record – One way you can assist your child with pace is by allowing her to record herself reading aloud (you’ll notice all these interventions involve reading aloud – it’s important!). Many times children don’t realize how slowly or quickly they are reading. When they go back and listen to themselves, they will get a better idea of whether they need to slow down or speed up.

Reading with expression involves paying attention to punctuation and the mood of the story. Reading with feeling makes the text more enjoyable and aids in comprehension.

  • Model by Reading Aloud – One of the ways kids learn to read with expression is by hearing someone else read with expression. This is one of a thousand reasons why parents should read aloud to their children. When we read a story to our kids they pick up on the nuances of our speech patterns and learn how expressive reading sounds.
  • Echo Reading – This intervention builds on the previous one. You will read a sentence or passage aloud using appropriate expression, then your kid will “echo read” the same passage (trying his best to sound like you).

As your child’s fluency improves she can begin reading more advanced texts and choosing titles that interest her rather than simple, decodable books. This will lead to a greater love of reading! Visit our Finding Fluency Pinterest board for more ideas on developing fluency.

Helping Your Struggling Reader


Helping Your Struggling Reader | Red Apple Reading


Some kids seem to be born readers. They pick up on the nuances of phonetics quickly and are reading independently on or before schedule. However, not all children find reading to be an easy skill to master – and that’s alright. Each child becomes proficient at reading at their own pace. The good news is, if your child struggles with reading, there are several things you can do to help him improve his skills.



Read Daily – Often, children who struggle with reading do not relish the task of dedicated daily reading time. However, it is important for your child to read every day. Sit down with your kiddo and work together to come up with a number of pages that they will read each day.

Find Interesting Material – Do everything you can to make reading appealing for your kid. If your child is interested in what she is reading, there’s a better chance she will stick with it.

Find Balanced Material – It can be challenging to find books that are easy enough not to frustrate your reader, yet don’t seem “babyish” in nature. Finding good material is worth the effort! Take a look at these high interest/low readability books from This Reading Mama.

Make Tasks Manageable – You may find it helpful to break up reading time into manageable chunks for your kid. For example, instead of having your child read the whole book, take turns reading with him. If you sense he is becoming frustrated, take a quick break and grab a snack. By managing daily reading wisely, you can cut down on aggravation and increase productivity.

Implement Oral Repetitive Reading – If your kiddo struggles with reading fluently, take time to listen to her read the same passage aloud to you several times. Usually, children improve with each reading. To see an example of this type of reading practice check out this video.

Prep for Success – Everyone wants to see their kid succeed. With a little prep beforehand, parents can ensure a more positive reading experience for their child. One way to prepare for reading is to go over potentially hard vocabulary words with your child in advance. Also, be sure your child is well rested and not hungry; a tired and hungry kid is not ready to work hard.

Provide Incentives – Who doesn’t enjoy being rewarded for a job well done? When your child has put forth significant effort to improve his reading, a little positive reinforcement is in order. Extra television time or a favorite treat can go a long way in providing the needed incentive to persevere in reading.

If reading is a struggle for your child, don’t panic! Begin today implementing some of the above strategies. It will be hard work for you and your child, but most good things require extra effort! If you suspect your child is facing a bigger issue (such as dyslexia, apraxia of speech, etc.) then contact your child’s teacher and ask for a formal evaluation.


Thankful for Reading

Thankful for ReadingWith the Thanksgiving season at hand, our thoughts naturally turn toward gratitude. No matter our current circumstances we all have something for which to be grateful. In fact, we often take our most precious gifts for granted. For instance, have you ever considered the advantages that being literate affords? Red Apple Reading would like to take time this holiday season to remind our friends what a privilege it is to read!

  • Reading Broadens Horizons – I’m an underfunded traveler, but that doesn’t mean I can’t experience new places and different cultures. I love to read books about people who live in places I’ll never see. My kids may never visit Afghanistan in person, but they can learn a lot about middle-eastern culture by reading Andrew Clements’ Extra Credit (a touching story about an American girl and Afghan boy who become pen pals).
  • Reading Enlarges Your Vocabulary – The exposure we receive to new words radically increases when we regularly read. Thus, reading is a great way to increase one’s vocabulary. So if you have an expansive vocabulary, chances are you have reading to thank!
  • Reading Increases Your Emotional Intelligence – Nothing quite puts you in someone else’s shoes the way reading does. Stories help us view situations from different perspectives. Learning to empathize with others allows us to see beyond ourselves and think big. When my teenager read The Outsiders in 9th grade, she not only experienced a great work of fiction, but she also learned how people from other socioeconomic backgrounds experience life.
  • Reading Improves Brain Function – In a study conducted at Emory University, researchers discovered that, “becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function”. Who doesn’t want a better brain? If you want to improve brain function in your kiddos and stay sharp as an adult, pick up a book!
  • Reading Develops Imagination – If you’ve ever bemoaned your child’s lack of creativity, perhaps you should try reading to her. While reading or listening to others read, kids are imagining what the setting and characters look like; they are picturing the plot as it unfolds in their heads. Simply put, reading can help ripen the imagination.
  • Reading Aids in Navigating Life – Perhaps the most important reason we should be thankful for the ability to read is the convenience it affords us as we navigate life. Imagine for a moment your typical day, but without the ability to read. How would you know if you received an urgent piece of mail or help your child with his homework? Reading greatly impacts our everyday life!

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to pause and take stock of the good gifts in our lives. Chances are you’ve probably never thought about incorporating reading into your inventory. When making your list of things to be thankful for this year, don’t forget to include the ability to read!


Building Your Child’s Vocabulary

Building Your Child's Vocabulary - Red Apple ReadingA robust vocabulary is a vital part of literacy. While a child may be able to read a word, it doesn’t necessarily mean she understands the meaning of the word. Reading is an important life skill and kids will only reap the full benefits if they understand the text. A large vocabulary improves a child’s reading comprehension. So what can you do to help build a child’s vocabulary? Red Apple Reading has a few suggestions!

  • Read – The single most important thing to grow a child’s vocabulary is read to them. Kids will never use a word if they never hear that word. Simply put, reading to your kiddos will expose them to new words.
  • Model – Children pick up on the behaviors and habits (good and bad) of those around them, and vocabulary usage is no exception. When we have an expansive vocabulary our kids will follow suit.
  • Teach Context – When a child is reading a book and comes across a word he doesn’t know, teach him how to use the sentences around the word to clue into its meaning. When kids learn how to use context clues to determine the gist of a word, their vocabulary and reading comprehension will improve.
  • Make a Word Wall – Using a bulletin board, refrigerator, or door in your home, create a wall of words your child has learned or is currently learning and review them frequently. If you need a template to make attractive word cards, check out this Scholastic resource.
  • Use Flash Cards – Flash cards can be particularly helpful when testing kids for upcoming vocabulary tests. The above link for templates can be used for flashcards as well!
  • Sing – I have to admit that my singing voice is less than pleasant! However, my children never seemed to mind when I was off pitch. Singing with our little ones is fun and it also helps to expand their vocabulary. For example, when you sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to your kiddo, you are exposing him to interesting words like twinkle that you may not otherwise use.

There’s a good chance you are already doing many of the things that naturally build vocabulary in children. By implementing a few, new strategies you can give a child’s vocabulary an extra boost! Remember, a healthy vocabulary is a crucial component of literacy; the extra effort really is worthwhile! For more ideas on helping your kiddos improve vocabulary, try these fun vocabulary activities from the National Capital Resource Center.

Helping Toddlers with Pre-Reading Skills

If you have a toddler at home, you may not have thought much about teaching her to read. Most parents of toddlers would be thrilled if their little one would just learn to keep their food on their plate! While most toddlers have several years before they begin to read fluently, there are some activities you can begin now in order to build a strong reading foundation. And trust us, your child will be in much better shape when starting school if you have already taken the time to do these things!

Developing your little one’s phonemic awareness is one very important way you can begin to lay the groundwork for reading success. Simply put, phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate sounds within words. The following phonemic awareness activities will help your toddler cultivate a strong basis for later reading.

  • Read Nursery Rhymes – Rhymes help children hear the phonetic connections between words with similar spellings and sounds. When you read nursery rhymes to your toddler, he learns the natural rhythms of spoken language.
  • Sing Rhyming Songs – Singing fun rhyming songs is another way to help your little one develop an awareness of rhythmic patterns among words. When you’re singing their favorite song for the tenth time that day, remember that you really are doing important brain work!
  • Clap Words – You can begin to introduce the concept of syllables to your toddler by “clapping words”. Clapping out the syllables in words helps your little one learn to isolate sounds, which is an important part of developing phonemic awareness.
  • Read Word Family Books – Reading books to your toddler that focus on a particular “word family” (words ending in a particular sound – “ad”, “an”, “op”, etc.), will help him gain phonemic awareness.  Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop is an example of a good book for introducing word families.
  • Go on a Sound Hunt – Help your toddler learn to isolate sounds within words by going on a “sound hunt”. For instance, look around the house for objects that have the /d/ sound in them (dog, door).
  • Talk and Read with Your Toddler! – Speaking abundantly with a young child and reading stories – both fiction and non-fiction – are easy and effective things a parent can do to help a child’s budding literacy.

Your toddler is probably still several years from becoming an independent reader, but it’s never too early to begin laying a good foundation for reading. In fact, you are probably already doing many of the things necessary for nurturing an emerging reader without even realizing it!

If you would like to know more about the concept of phonemic awareness, check out this video from Red Apple Reading!