As the International Literacy Association explains “reading fluently does not mean reading fast.” What does it mean to be a fluent reader? Educators may measure fluency by finding out the words per minute children can read. Children are given a passage and the timer is set for a minute. Any mispronunciations are deducted from the words per minute read. But Reading Rockets explains that fluency entails being able to provide expressiveness, read at a quick pace (quickly isn’t fast) and to read the words with accuracy.
Parents can use apps to help with reading fluency or do reading exercises at home. Gaining fluency might help boost confidence, especially if a child has to read aloud in class. Children who read fluently can make intonation in their voice, read without stumbling over pronunciation and do all this at a reasonable pace.
What About Speed Reading?
Reading fast doesn’t mean fluent. Why? Think about it. A child who is reading as quickly as possible might not be thinking about the text, understanding it or even hearing their intonation of what is being read.
Reading isn’t a speed contest. Reading isn’t necessarily about how quickly a child or individual can read a book, a passage or a chapter. Adults know that if we read something too quickly, our brains might not have the time to comprehend what we’ve read. Although some people can read super fast and comprehend at the same time, this isn’t true for everyone.
While reading quickly or speed reading can be fun, working on fluency means helping children to properly pronounce words, read at a fluid pace and be expressive when they read. Stories read aloud are so much more fun with emotion! Even when we read in our heads silently, the brain may automatically emote while reading the text. Books are adventurous and writers can use their words to help convey certain emotions, actions and feelings.
Working on Fluency
Struggling readers might have an issue with fluency. Sometimes children may only struggle with this area. Maybe they can comprehend, but they simply have trouble reading without stumbling or they may not think to inflect emotion.
Parents can help children work on fluency at home. Daily reading exercises may help. And reading aloud is an easy way to work on fluency. Parents can ask a child’s teacher for worksheets with reading passages for children to use at home.
When working on fluency, parents can set a timer for one minute to gauge the number of words the child can read without error (aka words per minute). Children should read the passage until the timer stops. Parents will need to mentally track errors (or they may have a piece of paper to note this). After a minute, parents can subtract reading errors to find out how many words per minute were read.
However, words per minute don’t need to be the big picture. The goal of the exercise is to boost confidence, too. So unless parents desperately need to know words per minute, they may simply focus on having the child read passages aloud. Parents may encourage children to read a passage or a few passages aloud daily to practice their reading skills.
Reading Aloud During Storytime
Parents also can informally work with children to help them gain fluency. Most children are encouraged—or instructed—to read anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes each night.
Children can be encouraged to read aloud during storytime (at bedtime or any time!). One technique that Understood recommends is having children read a sentence aloud, and parents can then mark chunks of the sentence for children to practice. Understood explains that children should take a pause at each mark-off that chunks the information.
While reading, if parents notice that children aren’t inflecting emotion, they may also talk about how the character feels during the story. Help children talk about the action of the story and how these actions or events of the plot may impact the character. Ask the ‘wh’ questions. How does the character feel? What is happening in the story? Where or when does the story take place? Children and parents can also give each character a unique voice to set the story and differentiate who is speaking.
Parents also can help children if they stumble on a word while reading. Parents can encourage children to sound out the word. Or parents and children can decipher the new word together. Some words just don’t follow any language rules. Even parents might stumble! Help children understand it’s ok to make mistakes but that practicing can help to feel more confident with reading.
Books on Tape
Books on tape could help children hear the narration, and, thus, the emotion of the story. Maybe parents listen to a book on tape in the car and have children follow along. Reading Rockets delved into the many possible benefits of listening to stories, including using audio books could help children identify humor in the story and even enjoy books that might be too advanced for their reading level.
Check the Reading Level
A child might be having difficulty reading a book fluently because the book is too advanced for their level. Check with the child’s teacher to find out the child’s appropriate reading level to find books that are ideal for their ability.
Reading levels might be noted with either a letter or a number. Parents can find charts online to show the correlation between the letter, number and grade-level behind reading levels. Reading A-Z provides a great chart for parents to use as a reference!
Can Game-Based Apps Help with Reading Fluency?
There are many free apps that parents can download. Some of these can be created like a game. Parents can find educational game apps to help their child with phonics and letter recognition. This might help children who struggle with sounds or blends.
Is there a free app to help with fluency? Parents may need to do a quick search to find a game app geared towards fluency…but there are apps that offer fun books that children could read to help them gain fluency. For example, the Dr. Seuss Treasury Kids Book app is the gateway to the fun rhyming cadence that is Dr. Seuss’ writing hallmark; reading Seuss books aloud could be a fun way for younger children. However, while the Seuss app is free to download, parents will need to purchase either all the books or a subscription to have access to the books.
Learning Apps to Help with Reading Fluency
Reading apps can help with reading fluency and improve reading. Some reading programs (like Readability) are designed to provide multimodal support for children who struggle to read. Readability helps children who struggle with comprehension, and the app also can help children who struggle with fluency.
Readability includes a built-in AI tutor. This private tutor will help guide the reading lessons through the program. When working on lessons in Readability, children will need to read stories out loud. The program includes voice recognition software; this is beneficial because as the child reads, the software will adjust to each child’s voice and pronunciation. When a child doesn’t know a word or mispronounces a word, the tutor will provide feedback and correct the mistake.
As the child reads, the program also is gauging fluency. This will be broken down into words per minute. However, at the end of each story children also will be tested about what they’ve read. The AI tutor will ask questions about the story. Children do not move on to a higher and more difficult reading level until they’ve demonstrated proficiency in reading fluency and comprehension.
How do parents know if the program is helping their child? And are apps a reliable way to help struggling readers?
Parents might want to look for apps that offer data regarding their child’s progress with the program. For example, Readability has an area specifically for parents called the Parent Dashboard. This cannot be accessed by the child.
The Parent Dashboard compiles all the reading data for each user. Parents can see how many words their child reads per minute. They also can view how long their child used the program and their child’s reading level.
Efficacy of a program, though, also depends on how well the knowledge carries over into the classroom setting. Using Readability’s Parent Dashboard, parents can create a report that includes all their child’s reading data on the program. This report can be sent to the child’s teacher and can be used to further a dialogue about the child’s progress at school.
Before committing to a reading app or program, parents might want to investigate their options and even try out a program or two. Free trial periods might be offered for parents and children to explore the program and see if it’s a good choice. Readability offers a free seven-day trial period. During this time, children can read stories and become acquainted with their AI tutor. Parents can sit with children to view content and see how the program works.
To sign up for a free trial, parents simply need to fill out their information. Billing information will need to be included, too. Ready to try Readability? Sign up today!