Improving Your Reading Fluency
A Comprehensive Guide to Reading more Effectively.
What is Reading Fluency?
The word “fluency”, is derived from the Latin word fluens, a term used to describe the act of “flowing freely” or being in a “state of relaxation”. When we define “reading fluency”, we are looking at the reader’s ability to read with ease and competence. Everyone with the ability to read has their own distinct level of reading fluency. But this cannot simply be achieved with the best English grammar book at your disposal. To possess this skill, the person must have the ability to read the text accurately, quickly, and with appropriate expression.
This is why you learn how to learn English reading skills the right way. Fluent reading is something you can learn in the comfort of your own home. It’s something that can be easily integrated into your daily routines and practiced often.
In this blog, we will explore some easy exercises you can use at home to improve your reading fluency. It will cover the most effective reading comprehension strategies. We will begin with defining the 3 basic mechanics behind reading, and then provide helpful techniques to improve these mechanisms. Through extensive research, it has been found that Accuracy, Automaticity, and Prosody are the essential modes of learning fluency for students.
Accuracy in reading is the reader’s ability to identify words without error. It is the most essential component of reading fluency. This requires the reader to accurately identify graphemes (letters) and phonemes (sounds) while decoding them at the same time. When a reader has learned the relationship between words and sounds, they are well on their way to becoming a fluent reader.
Judging by this definition, accuracy may seem like it’s the only skill required to decode sentences. But reading is so much more than knowing words. It must be accompanied by perfecting the reading rate (automaticity) and expression (prosody).
Accuracy can be easily measured by the number of mistakes compared to the word count. If you make more mistakes than the word count, you need to practice your word recognition more. Pay attention to punctuation as one of the essential components of fluency practice. Try timing yourself to find which words take longer to identify, and work from there. This will improve your automaticity as well.
The definition of the term automaticity is “the quality or fact of being performed involuntarily or unconsciously, as a reflex, innate process, or ingrained habit”.
During independent reading, you want to develop automaticity with various speed-based exercises. Studies have shown that many factors will contribute to your automaticity in reading. The best way to identify an automatic reader is by judging their rate of reading. If they can carry long phrases without stopping to pause, they have strong automaticity. If the reader makes pauses between each word, then they will need to improve their reading rate with practice. But this is not a race; automaticity is less about reading fast, and more about reading with ease.
The automaticity of a reader is heavily influenced by their accuracy and fluency skills. Readers who cannot place words in their proper context will take more time working through lengthy passages. This trouble can be identified by setting a time limit on reading, and evaluating the information you managed to gather in that time.
Prosody is the reader’s ability to read with the correct expressions. To possess accurate prosody, the reader must demonstrate the proper pitch, tone, volume, emphasis, and rhythm in their reading. It requires the opposite of silent reading, where instead the essential element of this task is sight reading aloud. Without the correct expression, attitudes cannot be conveyed cohesively. Anger may come across as happiness, sarcasm might be taken seriously, and all other humor will fall flat.
This is usually the last skill of fluency to be perfected, as understanding where to use expression requires a subconscious effort that cannot be accessed in the more practical phases of silent reading comprehension. Choppy readers may implement additional strategies to this sight reading so they can achieve better fluency skills.
To test your prosody. Try reading a text which has complex emotion to an audience (ie. poems, songs, stories) and ask them how they feel after. If you have perfected your prosody, the audience should mirror the feeling you were attempting to convey.
As you can see, reading fluency relies heavily on reading to yourself and others. Speech and reading are so intertwined that you cannot expect to become an expert reader without speaking first. This is why babies always begin speaking before they can read. Consistent practice of prosody is essential to fluency because sound and meaning are forever intertwined.
How do we improve our reading fluency?
Now that we know the 3 skills our brain must acquire, we need a strategy. If you’re lucky enough to have access to classes, these tips can be helpful supplements. However, most people delay improving their reading fluency because they have other time commitments. Not everyone can put the time aside to outsource classes.
Luckily, the 3 aforementioned skills can be learned through a collection of at-home exercises. We understand that most people seek easy methods of practice that can be used any time, any place. Reading should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are in the world. Below we have identified some simple, but effective tactics to use at home. Most of which can be achieved independently.
Learn Sight Words
Knowing this is one of the most essential skills in common reading practice. Sight words usually come in the form of adjectives and verbs. These are the commonly used terms like “they” “it” “when” “how”. They are the thread that sews sentences together. By becoming proficient in sight words before learning nouns and less-common vocabulary, the reader will be able to piece together sentences with more accuracy.
A simple activity for students to improve their comprehension skills of sight words is:
- Writing them all down and hanging them in places you see often (fridge, office pinboard, bathroom mirror)
- Arrange them alphabetically, this will help your mind see them as essential instead of randomized (ie. a, an, at, are, as, at, and, all, about, after)
- Repeatedly highlight them in sentences and define them as you go! Practice makes perfect.
In a learning environment, the teacher will often teach you a collection of nouns to search for in sentences. This is an excellent and effective method of teaching vocabulary and boosting fluency levels, because it activates the part of the human brain that aims to gather information. Think of it like a word search, only instead of incoherent letters surrounding the words, they’re surrounded by recognizable sight words.
You can accomplish this at home by:
- Choosing a text with the subject matter you’re looking to learn (ie. “Preview Vocabulary” books on animals, food, and plants)
- Use search engines such as Google to find keywords you’re looking to learn
- Find a friend who wants to work on their vocabulary, and preview words for them before they read a text
Not understanding comprehension is one of the greatest reading difficulties and the ultimate goal for student progress. So it’s essential to implement these key strategies in your daily practice. After comprehensive reading passages, it’s important to test yourself to see if you genuinely absorbed the information. If you’re learning a new language, try keeping a notebook nearby so you can summarize what you have just read. Be sure to:
- Identify the Who, What, Where, When, and Why (if applicable)
- Summarize in paraphrased terms
- Explain to someone else what you have just read in detail
Try to make this as fun as possible! If you find academic methods of learning to be off-putting, try using social media and other leisurely activities as a tool for improving your reading fluency. Use subtitles when you watch your favourite TV show or invest in exciting accurate reading material like adventure stories or funny comics. The aim is to make your learning environment something you will enjoy coming back to.
You can also make the environment more relaxed by involving friends in your activities. This will make reading classroom practices a fun environment. Some aspects of reading you can enjoy with friends are:
- Reading aloud to each other
- Communicating over messenger apps in the desired language
- Sharing progress and congratulating each other on your success
Extensive research has been put towards analyzing the relationship between reading aloud and reading competency. The easiest way to identify students’ reading capabilities is by asking them to read something aloud. This is because stronger readers with a high-level understanding will be able to successfully incorporate the 3 skills of reading fluency (accuracy, automaticity, and prosody).
In order to achieve this intermediate level of reading fluency, it’s important to use reading aloud as your primary method of testing yourself. If you find that you can incorporate all of the 3 research-based practices with ease in your reading, then you know you can start increasing the difficulty and complexity of your reading material. This critical reading skill can be measured by:
- Recording yourself and comparing it to someone of an intermediate reading level
- Timing yourself to see how long it takes to string together a cohesive sentence
- Testing yourself with expressive readings such as joke-telling or reading a poem
Studies have shown that audio-assisted reading builds a stronger foundation for reading development than simply reading alone. A study in Japan showed that students who read while listening had the highest overall scores in reading fluency compared to students who used silent-listening and listening-only techniques. This study also showed a preference for students having the assistance of written-text to aid their listening. Through this experiment, students who listened while they read had a greater understanding of phonetics, expression, and overall understanding.
Phonetics are impossible to perfect without hearing them first. Before you read something, try listening to it first to increase your retention. With apps like LillyPad, you can have any audio book passage you want to be read aloud to you before you attempt reading it yourself. Think of it as your own personal vocabulary preview.
LillyPad is a specialized tool designed to integrate the convenience of an e-reader with the benefits of a reading companion. This app is perfect for the student who wants to improve their reading fluency from the comfort of home. Aside from the plethora of reading material provided in Lilly’s library, you can personalize it as well. Any academic journal, novel, or file you have can be imported into this e-reader. Once you have curated a selection of material you feel inspired by, you can read everything in 4 different ways with Lilly!
Frequently Asked Questions
Developmental factors such as a child’s stage of phonemic awareness, phonological processing, and knowledge of sight words can all influence reading fluency.
In addition, poor oral language skills can also be a factor, as children who have difficulty producing speech sounds or understanding grammar are more likely to have difficulty decoding words on the page.
Environmental factors such as inadequate exposure to print or a lack of opportunities to practice reading can also lead to fluency difficulties. Ultimately, any factor that interferes with a child’s ability to read quickly and accurately can impact reading fluency.
When it comes to reading fluency, there are six essential components that need to be in place.
Firstly, readers need to be able to decode the words on the page accurately.
Secondly, they need to be able to read those words quickly and efficiently.
Thirdly, they need to be able to read with expression, adding inflection and intonation in order to convey the meaning of the text.
Fourthly, readers need to be able to use context clues in order to fill in any gaps in their understanding.
Fifthly, readers need a good working knowledge of vocabulary in order to comprehend the text fully.
And finally, readers need to be able to take all of these components and apply them automatically and fluently when reading independently. By ensuring that all six of these elements are in place, we can help our students develop strong reading fluency skills.
One popular approach is to record yourself reading aloud and then listen back to the recording, paying attention to your rate of speech and any errors you made. Another option is to find a partner and take turns reading aloud to each other. Not only will this help you to identify any areas where you need improvement, but it will also give you the chance to practice speaking at a natural pace.
According to the National Reading Panel, there are five essential components of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension.
There are a number of different factors that can contribute to reading difficulties. One of the most common is an inadequate foundation in phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken language. This skill is essential for being able to map sound onto print (i.e., match letters with the corresponding sounds).
Some students may have difficulty sounding out words or recognizing basic sight words. This can be due to a lack of phonemic awareness or phonics instruction. Other students may have difficulty with comprehension, struggle to remember what they read or have a hard time making connections between text and their own life experiences.
Silent reading fluency can be improved in a number of ways. One is to increase the reader’s rate of speed while maintaining comprehension. This can be accomplished by practising with short passages that are at or slightly below the reader’s comfort level. Another way to improve silent reading fluency is to work on accuracy. This means reading with proper phrasing and stress on words and paying attention to punctuation.
Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts
Reading fluency is a skill that everyone can acquire. By working on your Accuracy, Automaticity, and Prosody through the tips we shared above, you will be on your way to a world of expressive, coherent reading skills to accompany you through life. If knowledge is power, then reading is the battery! Charge your battery today with LillyPad.
What’s the one thing that makes LillyPad so special? Lilly! She is your artificially intelligent English tutor, and she has people talking all over the world! Lilly makes improving your English easy. With Lilly you can read in four different ways, and you can read just about anything you love. And learning with Lilly, well that’s what you call liberating!
For learners of all ages striving to improve their English, LillyPad combines the most scientifically studied and recommended path to achieving English fluency and proficiency with today’s most brilliant technologies!
Additionally, the platform incorporates goal setting capabilities, essential tracking & reporting, gamification, anywhere-anytime convenience, and a significant cost savings in comparison to traditional tutoring methodologies.
At LillyPad, everything we do is focused on delivering a personalized journey that is meaningful and life-changing for our members. LillyPad isn’t just the next chapter in English learning…
…it’s a whole new story!
Do you want to improve your English? Visit www.lillypad.ai.
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Bethany MacDonald has contributed articles LillyPad.ai since 2020. As their Blog Lead, she specialises in informative pieces on culture, education, and language learning