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  • Writer's pictureDr. V.S. Gayathri

Reading Fluently Does Not Mean Reading Fast!

Reading is an essential life skill that needs to be nurtured from an early age. Many develop it as a habit and keep utilizing it throughout their lives, while many struggle with reading as not an enjoyable experience. That is why as parents, we keep trying to imbibe the habit of reading in their kids. However, many of them tend to confuse fluency and speed while reading.

Let us understand the difference between fluency and speed because the ultimate goal of reading is not speed, rather fluency and better comprehension. Studies have proven that fluent readers are over 90% more likely to comprehend text.

What is reading fluency?

Reading fluency constitutes of reading accuracy, the speed of reading, and the ability to read materials with expression and comprehension. Fluent readers mostly recognize words automatically, without struggling over decoding issues. When reading silently, in addition to recognizing words, they also group words to the gain meaning from their reading, which then translates into their understanding of the text. It has been indicated that how fluently one reads is a strong predictor of comprehension. So, children are successful with decoding when the process used to identify words is fast and nearly automatic.

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“The traditional definition of reading fluency is the ability to accurately read text at an appropriate rate and with prosody. This definition emphasizes three main components: accuracy, rate, and prosody.”


Better comprehension mean that students should be able to accurately identify most of the words in a text. Comprehension is highly impacted when critical words or a large percent of words are misread.


Rate mostly includes two factors: automaticity and speed. Automaticity refers to the quick and effortless word identification, in or out of context. If readers are facing difficulty with word identification, their capacity to comprehend the text is hindered.

Speed is also related to comprehension. It is common for students who read slowly to fail to complete their word, and rarely read for pleasure.


Prosody (also referred to as expression) is the rhythmic and tonal aspects of speech. It refers to a reader’s ability to read with appropriate phrasing and expression. Reading with prosody can be challenging because the reader must use the meaning of the text to identify them. It also requires readers to pause after a related group of words. Hence, reading fast without proper comprehension doesn’t bear fruits on the long run.

The main goal of reading that is comprehension cannot be achieved by only speed or fluency. Often, comprehension is overlooked in fluency instruction as education focusses more on accuracy and rate. However, authentic reading does not occur in one-minute bursts of cold and hot timings. While these timed reading techniques serve an important purpose, it is important to communicate to students that understanding the text is the ultimate goal.

There are several ways children can practice fluent reading like:

· Child/adult reading – The adult models, then the student practices

· Choral reading – reading together

· Assisted reading – reading with the help of a recorded text

· Partner reading – reading along with another child

· Reader’s Theatre – playing characters, as in a play

We will discuss about these in another article.

As parents or educators, we must nurture effective reading in our children- not the speed, rather fluency in comprehension as a fundamental.


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