Nurturing reading fluency

Schoolkids in classroom. Girl reading task aloud at lesson.Improving students’ word recognition efficiency and helping them develop greater sensitivity to the syntactic nature of the text will result in more efficient reading and improved fluency.

Timothy V. Rasinski, Kent State University, asserts that this does not have to be achieved through isolated skill practice. Reading rate, efficiency and fluency can be developed through instructional activities such as poetry readings, Readers Theatre and paired or choral reading in authentic settings. Rasinski stresses, however, that a key to nurturing fluent reading is finding the appropriate text for the student to read. To promote fluency, texts should be well within the child’s independent-instructional range.

Short, highly predictable selections that are meant to be read aloud and with expression are ideal. Including performances of rhyming poetry in the curriculum can develop more fluent reading. Readers Theatre is another way to promote repeated readings that increase fluency. Students do not use props or costumes, and perform with scripts in hand. Even students who are poor readers love to perform for an audience when they are given sufficient opportunities to rehearse the script.

Rasinski reports that in one study that used Readers Theatre for 10 weeks in a second-grade class, students made significant gains in reading rate and overall reading achievement. These students averaged a gain of 17 words per minute, about the gain expected for an entire year, after only a 10-weeks of repeated readings.

Other studies have indicated that Readers Theatre is especially effective and motivating for poor readers. Another way to provide authentic activities that increase fluency is paired or buddy reading. This involves a more experienced reader reading aloud to a less experienced reader, followed by their reading the passage together and then, the less experienced reader reading it by himself.

Studies of parents’ being trained to do paired reading with their children have shown that this can be very successful. An older, struggling reader can also be paired with a younger, struggling reader for “buddy reading” a couple of times a week. It is essential, however, that the older student repeatedly read the passage until he can read it accurately and with expression before working with his younger partner.

Rasinski reports that studies demonstrate that these authentic, meaningful reading activities enrich the reading curriculum for all students. More importantly, they enable teachers to give struggling readers the practice they need to develop efficient word recognition and fluent, expressive oral reading skills.


“Speed Does Matter in Reading” The Reading Teacher Volume 54, Number 2, October 2000 Pp. 146-15.

Published in ERN November 2000 Volume 13 Number 8

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