When kids can read fluently, it’s easier for them to understand what they’re reading. And they read aloud easily and with expression — this makes reading a lot more enjoyable!
Less fluent readers read more slowly and word by word. They must focus their attention on figuring out the words, leaving them little attention for understanding the meaning of text. Comprehension and motivation to read can suffer. Of course, beginning readers aren’t fluent yet, but by the end of first grade, kids should be reading books at their grade level with ease and expression.
Fluency develops gradually over time and through practice. At the earliest stage of reading development, students’ oral reading is slow and labored because students are just learning to “break the code” — to attach sounds to letters and to blend letter sounds into recognizable words.
When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Their reading sounds natural, as if they are speaking.
Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words, they can focus their attention on what the text means. They can make connections among the ideas in the text and their background knowledge. In other words, fluent readers recognize words and comprehend at the same time.