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.

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension - Red Apple Reading blogComprehension is the ability to not only read words, but understand their individual meanings and their meanings within the context of a sentence and story. Your child may be able to demonstrate an understanding of phonics and phonemic awareness, read basic sentences fluently, identify many written words by sight, and still not understand what she is reading. That’s why comprehension in and of itself is an important component of reading instruction.

If you are wondering how you can help improve a child’s reading comprehension, then check out the following tips from Red Apple Reading!

  • Preview: Before you read the book or story, look at the title, topic, pictures, and words in bold print. This quick glance can actually make a big difference in your child’s understanding of the story.
  • Make predictions: After he previews the story, let your child use the information he has gleaned to make predictions about what he believes might happen in the book. He will enjoy seeing how closely his guesses match the actual plot! Check out this informative article from This Reading Mama about making predictions before reading.
  • Provide background knowledge: Comprehension can be impeded by a lack of “background knowledge.” For example, if a child is given a book about the Erie Canal, but does not know what a canal is, she will have difficulty understanding what the book will be about. If your child encounters a book about a possibly unfamiliar subject, take the time to help her gain some background knowledge about the subject before reading the book.
  • Ask questions: Asking your child questions before, during, and after the reading process will give her practice with synthesizing information and focusing on comprehension. Fantastic Fun and Learning has some great ideas for questions you can ask your little one about her story.
  • Form a mental picture: Encourage your kiddo to form a mental picture of what he is reading. You could describe it as a movie playing in her head. For more ideas for how to help your child practice mental imagery, read this article from Reading Rockets!

When a child doesn’t understand what she is reading, the process can become a chore. Red Apple Reading believes that reading should be fun! Once your child begins to better comprehend what he is reading, he will not only be more proficient but he will also be a more enthusiastic reader! For more ideas on improving your child’s reading comprehension you are welcome to visit our Pinterest board, Reading Comp Coffers.

Fostering Fluency

Finding FluencyLearning to read fluently is another key element in the reading process. In order for your kiddo to truly comprehend and enjoy what he’s reading, he needs to acquire fluency—the ability to read words and sentences accurately, at a reasonably quick pace, without the need to stop and decode individual words. Your child’s comprehension and enjoyment of a story will increase once she achieves reading fluency.

Perhaps the most important way children develop an understanding of fluency is by hearing text read to them. Reading to your child regularly provides a good model of how fluent reading sounds.


Here are some ways Red Apple Reading recommends to model fluent reading for your child:

  • Read out loud rapidly (but not too rapidly!).  If a child reads a sentence too slowly, he will not be able to synthesize meaning within “working memory.” On the flip side, if a child reads too fast, he may skip over words or miss important grammar cues within the text. Modeling an appropriate reading pace is a key piece to fostering fluency!
  • Pay attention to punctuation.  Point out how your voice changes and how you pause when you read. Emphasize words when a character in a book is shouting, or phrase a sentence like a spoken question when it ends in a question mark. This provides good modeling for children, demonstrating the importance of paying attention to punctuation and to the “flow” of a story. Scholastic recommends reading Yo! Yes? with your kiddo. This story is designed to provide plenty of punctuation reading practice!
  • Have your child practice with you.  You can read a sentence of text at a good pace, with appropriate phrasing, paying attention to punctuation, and then ask your child to read the sentence in the same way you did. This gives your child the chance to read with fluency without taking extra time to identify or decode words. Practicing with fluency strips as suggested by Primary Junction is a great way to rehearse fluency!
  • Encourage repeated readings of favorite stories.  As your child becomes familiar with a book, she might be able to begin imitating correct inflection and expression, repeating phrases after you or anticipating them. While reading the same story over and over might seem tedious to you, it’s actually good for fostering your child’s reading fluency!

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! Visit our Finding Fluency Pinterest board for more ideas on developing fluency.


Help Your Child’s Developing Vocabulary

Developing Your Child's Vocabulary - Red Apple ReadingVocabulary is one of the 5 pillars of reading instruction — along with phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and comprehension — that every child needs in order to become a proficient reader. Today we look at the crucial role vocabulary development plays in reading.

A rich vocabulary will serve your child well as she navigates through life. We often don’t realize the importance of a robust vocabulary. Although vocabulary acquisition may not be in the forefront of our minds, we notice the effects in our children when it is lagging or absent. If our children don’t understand the words that they hear, speak, read and write, they will become ineffective communicators and struggle with many daily tasks.

If you want to help your kids develop a rich vocabulary, check out these helpful tips from our team at Red Apple Reading!

Read to them!
The best ideas are often the simplest. The most important thing you can do to help your child’s vocabulary development is to read! When we read to our children, we are exposing them to words they may not otherwise hear. When I read to my 6-year-old, he is taking in new words and ideas and very often asking me questions about what he’s hearing! So when it’s time to pick up a book for the nightly bedtime story, remember that you are not only creating lasting memories, you are also developing vocabulary!

Display words on a word wall.
Include sight words for extra practice, and add new and more complex vocabulary as your child learns new words. Check out these word lists from Flocabulary for grades K-8.

Go on a word hunt.
Pick a favorite book and go through it page by page, having your child find specific words within the text. You can also do this in the car using billboards and business signs!

Point out familiar words in everyday life.
Very often opportunities for developing vocabulary happen organically and in the moment. Look through restaurant menus, draw attention to street signs, and show your child familiar words in your own reading materials.

Practice with flash cards.
Flip through words with your child, changing the order each time, or use the cards in games, having your child match words or pick words out from a pile.

Learning should be fun! When we share stories, tell jokes and play word games with our kiddos, this naturally aids vocabulary acquisition.  Check out these ideas from Hands On As We Grow for increasing your toddler’s vocabulary through play.

By implementing these simple strategies, parents will go a long way in helping their children develop a rich vocabulary that will serve them well in their daily life.

Need more ideas for enriching your child’s vocabulary? Check out the wealth of activities from the National Capital Language Resource Center.

Have any other ideas to share about building vocabulary? Please leave comments!

Activities for Mastering Phonics Skills

The Importance of Mastering Phonics

In our last post we discussed phonemic awareness and it’s critical importance to learning how to read. This week we will discuss phonics, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as, “a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system.” So, phonics further builds upon the foundation of phonemic awareness. Once your little one begins to correlate letters with sounds, they will begin building an important foundation for reading! Today Red Apple Reading shares several activities that will help your kiddo become a phonics master!



Beginning Activities

  • Practice letters with pictures:  Use letters with pictures that contain the letter sound to demonstrate sounds to your child. For example, show your child a flash card with a picture of a dog on it next to the letter d, and say the word “dog” out loud, emphasizing the /d/ sound.
  • Point out letters:  Point out letters within words in books, around the house, on signs, and so on, and explain the sounds those letters are making within the words. This phonics I-Spy bottle from The Imagination Tree is a fun way to sharpen this skill!
  • Introduce your child to phonics-related online media:  Let your child watch videos that demonstrate letter-sound relationships, and introduce your child to interactive phonics activities. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to sign up for your free 14 day trial of Red Apple Reading.

Intermediate Activities

Once your child becomes more comfortable with the sounds that letters make, it’s time to help her connect the letter-sounds into words. Some of the best words to start with are CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. These are phonetically regular words (words you can sound out, as opposed to words that include silent or unusually pronounced letters) like “mat,” “big,” and “get”.

  • Buy or create CVC word puzzles: Find a commercially produced product, or simply create your own puzzle by writing out a CVC word and then dividing it into separate letters. Puzzles that include a picture of the word can help children connect the word and the letters to meaning. This cute nuts and bolts activity from No Time for Flashcards not only helps your kiddos with their CVC words, but it also develops their fine motor skills!
  • Make a Letter Wall: Designate a spot in your home—perhaps the refrigerator door, or a bulletin board—and make it into a letter wall. Place magnetic or adhesive letters on the wall, and let your child create his or her own CVC words by moving the letters around. Check out No Time for Flashcards’ spin on this idea using a cookie sheet and letter magnets.
  •  Play writing games: If your child has begun to write some letters, you can begin to let him practice encoding (i.e. using knowledge of letters and letter sounds to write words). Play guessing games such as asking your child to write the letter that comes at the beginning of the word “bed.”

Advanced Activities

As your child’s developing reading skills continue to grow, you can build on these activities to include more advanced objectives. You can use many of the same resources as before such as flash cards, online activities, puzzles, but expand the material to include new and more complex aspects of phonological awareness:

  • Digraph and blend activities: Digraphs are two or more letters grouped together but making a single sound, for example “th” and “ch.” Blends are two or more consonants grouped together but making separate sounds, for example “br” and “gl.” There are several activities your child can do to practice recognizing digraphs and blends. Download this free, adorable diagraph activity from Make, Take, and Teach!
  • Blending and substitution games: Once a child can comfortably blend the letters “c” “a” “t” into “cat,” you can progress to more complicated words. For example, give your child the letters “f” “r” “o” “g” and let him or her practice blending those letters into a word. You can also introduce substitution activities, for example asking, “What happens when you take away the ‘r’ in “frog?”
  • Segmenting activities: Working in the opposite direction as the blending activities,   you can have your child start with a whole word, such as “block,” and break it into pieces. You can use the pieces to make a puzzle, or a flipbook with “-ock” at the end, or create a list of rhyming words (sock, rock, dock).

We hope these ideas will be helpful as you help your little one work on her phonics! Leave us a comment telling about your favorite phonics activity!