Can you imagine trying to read a good novel and having to stop to sound out every other word? How frustrating would that be? Well, that’s exactly the challenge your little one faces as he strives to become a proficient reader. In order to truly comprehend and enjoy what he’s reading, he will need to acquire fluency—the ability to read words and sentences accurately, at a reasonably quick pace, and without the need to stop to decode individual words. Once your child can read fluently, he can then focus on the meaning of the text, rather than the tedious task of sounding out words.
One important way in which children develop an understanding of fluency is by hearing text read to them. Read to your child regularly, providing a good model of how fluent reading sounds.
You can model fluent reading for your child by:
- Reading out loud rapidly (though not too rapidly!): One of the reasons fluency is an important skill for young readers to develop is because it is necessary to read at a certain speed in order to comprehend text. If a child reads a sentence too slowly, he or she will not be able to synthesize meaning within “working memory.” On the flip side, if a child reads too fast, he or she may skip over words or miss important grammar cues within the text.
- Reading with appropriate expression: Read expressively, and point out how your voice changes and how you pause when you read, for example, emphasizing words when a character in a book is shouting, or phrasing a sentence like a spoken question when it ends in a question mark. This can provide good modeling for children, demonstrating the importance of paying attention to punctuation and to the “flow” of a story.
- Encouraging your child to repeat after you read: You can read a sentence of text at a rapid (but not too rapid) pace, with appropriate phrasing, and paying attention to punctuation, and then ask your child to read the sentence in the same way you did. This can give your child the chance to read with fluency without taking extra time to identify or decode words.
- Encouraging repeated readings of favorite stories: As your child becomes familiar with a text, he or she might be able to begin imitating correct inflection and expression, repeating phrases after you or anticipating them. It is more than okay to read books with your child over and over!
You can find more activities to foster your child’s fluency at Education.com.
Once your child gets a taste of what it means to actually read and understand a story independently, then the sky is the limit! As her vocabulary and fluency continue to grow, she’ll begin reading more advanced texts and be able to choose titles that interest her rather than simple, decodable books. Then, you can begin to foster a real love of reading that will last your child a lifetime!