Do you watch your child struggle to read a book that you feel is just perfect for their age and reading level?  Is the reading choppy and slow?  I have some ideas and activities you can try out with your children at home to get those kiddos reading fluently and with expression.  But first, let’s figure out what grade level he or she is reading comfortably at.  

How do you figure out your child’s reading level?

 

My favorite and probably the easiest ways to determine if a text  is at an appropriate reading level for a child is the Five Finger Rule.  Have the child begin reading a page, and put down one finger each time he or she struggles with a word. If they reach the end of the page before you get to five fingers, the text is written at a comfortable level for independent reading.  

How do you test your child’s reading fluency?

 1.  Ask the child to read a grade level passage that they have never seen or read before.  (DIBELS has excellent grade level reading passage assessment you can use)  https://dibels.uoregon.edu/assessment/index/materialdownload/?agree=true

 

2.  Using a timer have the child read this text for one minute.

 

3.  While reading the passage, tally the errors the child makes while reading.

 

4.  Stop the child after one minute.  Count the number of words read in the minute and subtract any errors made by the child.  For example: if he or she read 120 words in a minute and made five errors then the child’s reading fluency rate is 115.

 

5.  Use the chart below to determine if your child’s reading rate is on target.

 

 

GradeFall TargetWinter TargetSpring Target
1Not applicable2050
2507090
37090110
495110125
5110125140
6125140150
7125140150
8130140150

Johns, J. and Berglund, R. (2006). Fluency strategies and assessments. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishers.

How do you improve your student’s reading fluency?

Read it at least 3 times!

I always have my students read through a newly introduced text in sections.  I put a marker under the first paragraph and say, “read the first 4 sentences quietly in your mind and then look at me when you are finished.”  I then ask a question pertaining to what they just read to make sure that they understood what they just read.  I do this process for the rest of the text.  

After that, I ask them to read the text again but this time out loud.  During this time we also stop and discuss vocabulary and any words they are struggling with.  I also use this opportunity to help the student use expression by stopping at periods, pausing at commas, and raising their voices at a question mark.  

Then for the third time, the student reads the entire text out loud and with expression.  Rereading text gives the child multiple opportunities to read unfamiliar words.  After repeated reading, those words become familiar.  Usually by the second or third time, the student is reading the text quite fluently and with more expression than the first time.

Use Fluency Drills

I also use fluency drills with every new concept we learn.  In the below passage, my student is learning the ew in our Orton-Gillingham lesson. I put a marker across the first line and ask them to read the words as quickly as they can.  I do this with every line on the page.  I use this drill 3 times over 3 days.  By the third day the student is reading the words very fluently.  I am really careful though not to stress my students out.  I always tell them to read as fast as they feel comfortable doing.  It isn’t a race.  Accuracy is way more important than speed.   

Read a lot!

Reading frequently will also improve reading fluency since reading is a skill that improves with practice.  Children can improve their reading fluency by reading independently each day for at least 20 minutes.  Again it is important that the child read a book or text that is at their grade level or slightly below their grade level.  Children should be encouraged and allowed to read a book of their choice – even if this doesn’t involve classic novels for their independent reading.  For gaining fluency, quantity is more important than quality.  Whenever possible, use their interests to guide their reading choices and give them some power in making decisions about what to read.  The internet is loaded with amazing online stories and I will blog about those another time.

Memorize those Dolch Sight Words!

Memorizing Dolch sight words is another activity I do with every Orton-Gillingham lesson to improve reading fluency in my students.  By memorizing common words like “the”, “said”, “what”, “you”, the student will read texts and stories more fluently.  Many of these words are in almost anything they read.  Readers will have more experiences of success if they know these words.  Dolch words are service words; they give meaning and direction, which are necessary for understanding sentences.  

Model good reading for you child!

Model good reading for your children.  Share what you read with them or read what they are reading.  Have discussions and talk to them about the things you find important in what you read and why.  Parents and teachers need to read themselves and read in front of their children and students.  Children will imitate you and will be more likely to read and read well in a house and classroom filled with all kinds of interesting books, magazines and texts.

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Karina Richland, M.A., developed the PRIDE Reading Program, an Orton-Gillingham program for struggling readers, based on her extensive experience working with children with learning differences over the past 30 years.  She has been a teacher, educational consultant and the Executive Director of PRIDE Learning Centers in Southern California.  Visit the PRIDE Reading Program website at https://www.pridereadingprogram.com or you can email her at info@pridelearningcenter.com