Reading fluently is a key component in the reading process. It is defined as reading quickly, accurately and with expression. A fluent reader reads smoothly, accurately and inserts natural pauses. One’s reading rate combined with accuracy will create fluency. Once a reader is able to read fluently their mind is no longer focusing on the arduous decoding process and is able to focus on comprehension, creating meaning from the printed word. Automaticity, which is the quick and accurate process of recognizing letters and words is a crucial function in this process.
The typical first grader is able to read roughly 40-50 words per minute. While the typical second grader reads about 70-80 words per minute. With each grade level and more reading experience, the words read accurately per minute increases until about 8th grade where the typical 8th grader through adult is able to read roughly 135-150 words per minute. This calculation is based upon appropriate reading material at each level which may be broken into three categories, independent, instructional and frustration levels. One rule of thumb for determining these levels states that when a student is able to read twenty words and has only one error or less,in a given passage it is at the independent level for that reader. While reading an instructional passage about one in ten words may be read incorrectly. Frustration occurs when more than one error occurs in every ten words of reading. The reader working at instructional or frustration levels will not likely increase reading rate or fluency as their focus is primarily on decoding correctly.
In order to become a more fluent reader, the learner must automatically recognize phonograms and words.This in turn increases reading speed and will enable smoother, more fluid reading. Many strategies are emplyed to faciltiate this process. For example, reading with your child and modeling natural pauses and smooth reading is a good start. Many teachers advocate reading a page or section to your child and modeling the correct pauses and words, then having your child reread the page to you. Other possible strategies include repeated readings of familiar books, echo reading, working with your child on the thirty seven most common phonograms(ab, ack, ag, ail, ain, ake, am, an, ank, ap, at, ay, eed, ell,est, ew, ick, ight, ill, in, ine, ing,ink, ip, ob, ock, op, ore,ot, out, ow, uck, um, unk, y), performing a reader’s theater with your child or computer based reading. In addition, supporting your child’s sight word vocabulary using words from the Dolch or Harris-Jacobson lists will enhance fluency.