Reading fluency

Among the fab five components of reading—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension—different aspects have seemed to be in the spotlight at different times. Of course, this is just my subjective view, but it seems to me that there was disproportionate focus on comprehension in the ’80s and early ’90s, then on decoding in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Recently, it seems that everyone’s talking about fluency.

Although I think that a disproportional focus on fluency is a mistake (more on that in a later paragraph), I thought it would be beneficial to have some resources here on LD Blog about reading fluency. So, I’ve assembled a few recommended links here:

  1. Oregon’s Big Ideas resources on fluency by E. Kame’enui and D. Simmons (n.d.);
  2. Reading Fluency Assessment and Instruction: What, Why, and How? by R. Hudson, H. Lane, and P. C. Pullen (2005).
  3. Reading Fluency by N. Mather and S. Goldstein (2001);
  4. Assessing Reading Fluency by T. V. Rasinski (n.d.);
  5. Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities in Reading: Developing Reading Fluency (PDF) by D. P. Bryant, J. Engelhard, & L. Reetz (n.d.; note that I am republishing the document here because I can no longer find it on the Council for Learning Disabilities site);
  6. Reading Rockets has a slew of resources; this link will get you a listing of them;
  7. Screening, Diagnosing and Progress Monitoring for Fluency by J. Hasbrouck (2006);
  8. Reading Fluency: What, Why, and How? by M. Dunn (PDF) (2007).

One of the reasons that we have to be careful about a disproportional emphasis on fluency is that we don’t want to communicate to learners that reading speed and accuracy, even including prosody, are all there is to reading. That is, fluency is just a means to the end of finding the ideas that the text conveys. This should be the idea of “balanced reading,” in my view. To be sure, fluent decoding is critical, but teacher have to shift the emphasis from the early stages when they are showing students how to unlock the coded material to the should-come-soon stages of comprehending the coded content.

Although it may sound like I’m playing with words, I am not. As strongly as I advocate for teaching early decoding skills efficiently and effectively, I don’t want readers to think that I consider decoding the end in itself. More on this another time… it probably deserves a page and perhaps it belongs on Teach Effectively rather than here on LD Blog.

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