Fluent readers are able to read quickly, accurately and with expression. They also are able to understand what they are reading. So how do we explicitly teach children to read fluently? On today’s post, I am going to share some strategies and tips that will help you teach your child reading fluency. But first, let’s figure out what grade level your child 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.  

You can test it:

  1.  Ask your 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) 
  2.  Using a timer have your child read this text for one minute.
  3.  While reading the passage, tally the errors your child makes while reading.
  4.  Stop your child after one minute. Count the number of words read in the minute and subtract any errors made by your child. For example: if he or she read 120 words in a minute and made five errors then your 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

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

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.

Memorize those 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.

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.   

I hope you enjoyed this post today!

And while you are here…please check out the PRIDE Reading Program. This is an Orton-Gillingham program that is heavily scripted, super easy to use, very affordable and used by homeschooling parents, tutors and teachers with great success. Let me know what you think. Thank you for reading my post today!

Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at info@pridereadingprogram.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com

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