Developing fluency in early reading

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By Dawn Roper

The importance of fluency acquisition during early reading can be easy to overlook. In this article, Dawn Roper explores what we can do to ensure timely development of fluency.

Understanding fluency

We do not want children to read word by word, we want them to become fluent readers, but what do we mean by the words ‘fluent’ and ‘fluency’? When completing reading assessments, you can clearly see the speed of the reader by how quickly each word is being ticked. Fluent readers do not need to overtly decode words by breaking them down – they read words not just on sight of the word, but also have the ability to read on ahead. Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression: their reading sounds natural, as if they are speaking. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word: their oral reading is choppy. Children who have not yet gained the skill of fluency have a lesser understanding of what they have read, and less of an understanding of what the author is actually saying.

Children must be exposed to fluency in order to learn it. By planning and delivering specific and explicit fluency lessons across school for all children, the importance of fluency as a key reading skill is highlighted in the same way that retrieval and inference are.

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