Being able to read fluently means that children can read sentences smoothly. They do not have to stop after each word nor do they struggle with word pronunciation. At the same time, they understand the material that they read so that they can read with expression and put their feelings into what they read. Readers who are not fluent read in a halting manner so that the sentences are chopped up into phrases. Listening to a fluent reader brings the text alive, whereas listening to a struggling reader is just as hard on the listener as it is on the reader.
Parents and teachers can help struggling readers to achieve fluency by using several different strategies that make learning fun. Children who have difficulty with reading are aware of their weakness and therefore shy away from anything that requires reading. They will only read when forced to do so. As they become more comfortable with the text, they start to enjoy reading and this is the goal of the reading program in schools, especially in primary school.
When adults read to children they are modeling what good reading sounds like. Teachers and parents should take advantage of every opportunity to read to children. Even in elementary and middle school, students like to listen to a novel or story being read to them. In a typical school day, the teacher should read to the children daily. This can be the start of the day with a set time for reading or the beginning of the Language Arts class. Social Studies and Science classes can also benefit from model reading from novels and stories that are relevant to the topic being studied in class.
A lesson can be devoted to fluency in reading by demonstrating what it is that fluent readers do when reading. The teacher can model various ways of reading so that children can determine what they need to do to improve. The danger with this is that some students may feel that the teacher is ridiculing their reading ability. Therefore such a lesson in modeling should be taught at the beginning of the year before the teacher does get to know what the student’s needs are. The students can then generate a chart about reading and how to become more fluent.
Repeated reading of short texts is one strategy that works well with younger children. They love to read favorite books over and over again giving teachers and parents the opportunity to reinforce sight words that occur frequently in the text. As the students read the same material over and over again, they gradually develop a repertoire of words that they know. You should not force the repeated readings though because this could be more of a hindrance to learning.
Choral reading in the classroom is another strategy for teaching fluency. As children read together, those that are struggling with the words will try to keep up with the rest. The best way to start off with using this strategy is to use sentences and phrases that students can repeat or read from a chart or the chalkboard.