Fluent reading is vital for a child’s academic and personal growth. It is the ability to read text accurately, quickly, and with appropriate expression, allowing the reader to gain meaning and understanding. When children can read fluently, they can focus on the meaning of the text rather than spending time and energy on decoding individual words. This, in turn, helps them improve their reading comprehension and overall learning.
Fluency plays a crucial role in a child’s success in various aspects of life. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported that only 35% of fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2019. This indicates that many children struggle with their reading skills, which may negatively impact their learning throughout their academic careers and even their future job prospects. With this in mind, let’s look at ways that parents can support their children in developing fluent reading skills.
1. Create a Reading-Friendly Environment
One of the first steps in fostering reading fluency is creating an environment that encourages reading. Parents can promote a positive reading atmosphere in their homes by:
- Maintaining a well-stocked and diverse home library: Create a “reading nook”, a comfortable place for your child to read. Put a variety of age-appropriate books from different genres in the reading nook.
- Setting aside dedicated time for reading: Make reading a routine by setting a dedicated time for reading. If you have a young child that needs your help in reading, find a time when both you and your child are free. If your child is old enough to read independently, encourage your child to set aside a dedicated reading time every day.
- Encouraging open discussion about books, authors, and topics: Be a role model by showing love of reading yourself. Create an open and safe space for your child to share their thoughts and feeling about books or topics covered in the books.
A home environment that supports reading can go a long way in nurturing a love for books and helping children develop their fluency skills.
2. Foster Motivation and Encourage Regular Reading
Motivation plays a significant role in the development of reading fluency. When children are motivated to read, they spend more time engaged in reading activities, leading to better fluency. To encourage motivation in reading, ensure that your child has access to age-appropriate books on topics that interest them. Use various strategies to foster love of reading in your child, such as the following strategies:
- Lead by example: When you child see that you love to read, your child will want to read, too.
- Incorporate reading into daily activities: This can include reading aloud the recipes while cooking together or reading information booklet when visiting a zoo.
- Read together: Read books together. Make reading into a fun, interactive experience.
- Set achievable reading goals and celebrate them: Set realistic reading goals such as two books per month, track your child’s progress. Celebrate it if your child reaches the goal.
- Leverage your child’s interests: Read books that appeal to your child interests. If your child shows interest in animals, find books that feature animal characters.
By nurturing your child’s motivation to read, you can help them build the necessary stamina and skills required for fluent reading.
3. Support Your Child’s Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension is closely intertwined with fluency. Fluent reading allows children to better understand the meaning of text, and understanding the meaning helps them become more fluent readers. To support your child’s reading comprehension, consider the following:
- Talk about the text before, during, and after reading. Before reading, you can go through difficult words with your child. During reading, you can ask questions about the story, such as “Why did the bear eat all the blueberries?” After reading, you can ask more open-ended questions and engage your child in discussion.
- Ask open-ended questions to engage in discussion and reflection. Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with “Yes” or “No”. These kind of questions can help your child think, and they can lead to in-depth discussion.
- Encourage your child to visualize the story or relate it to their personal experiences. Ask open-ended questions to help your child visualize the story. Relate the story to your child’s real-life experience to deepen their understanding.
- Discuss new vocabulary. Talk about the new words in the context of the story as well as in the context of your child’s real-life experience. For example, if your child encounters the word “jolt”, you can talk about what it means when a character in the book “jolted”, if there are similar words to “jolt” that your child can think of, and when you might be “jolted” in real life.
As you work to strengthen your child’s comprehension skills, their reading fluency is likely to improve as well.
4. Provide Lots of Opportunities for Practice
As with most skills, practice is important in developing reading fluency. Parents can help their children practice their reading skills by providing various opportunities for reading both at home and in the community.
- Combine guided reading with independent reading. Guided reading is when the parent or educator assists the child in reading. The adult provides help in reading, goes over the new words, and asks open-ended questions. Independent reading is when your child reads a book by themselves at their own pace. Start with guided reading, and shift the responsibility to your child when they are ready.
- Read the same book twice or more. You can read it with your child or let your child read it on their own. The more your child reads the same book, the more fluent your child’s reading becomes and the deeper your child’s understanding becomes. The better your child’s reading becomes, the more confident they will become in their own reading ability.
- Use informal reading opportunities. There are many opportunities for reading in daily life. Reading road signs, following recipes, enjoying a comic book, and exploring age-appropriate websites all contribute to fluency development.
Ensuring that your child has ample opportunities to read texts that match their reading level and interests can help them build their fluency skills over time.
Helping your child become a more fluent reader is a worthwhile endeavor that can significantly impact their academic and personal growth. By creating a reading-friendly environment, fostering motivation, supporting reading comprehension, and providing ample opportunities for practice, parents can play an essential role in nurturing their child’s reading fluency. As your child becomes a more proficient reader, they will find greater enjoyment in the world of literature, opening doors to new knowledge and experiences.
Richard Zhang, M.Ed., is an educator and a software developer with a Masters degree in education from University of Toronto and an immense passion for education and learning. Until the pandemic, Richard owned an award-winning learning centre in Toronto. For 15 years, he has taught and mentored hundreds of elementary, middle school, and high school students succeed in academics. He is also an app developer specializing in web and mobile application in educational and business sectors.