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Elementary teacher working on reading fluency with two students

Fluency: Introduction

Fluency is the ability to read a text with accuracy, automaticity, and prosody (expression) sufficient to enable comprehension. Fluency is a key skill to becoming a strong reader because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.

Certificate of Completion

After completing this module and successfully answering the post-test questions, you’ll be able to download a certificate of completion.

Why fluency is important

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, an aspect of fluency that is termed prosody. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word. Their oral reading is choppy and lacks prosody.

Fluency is important for several reasons. First, fluent reading is a foundation for good reading comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the text means. They can make connections between the ideas in the text and their background knowledge.

In other words, fluent readers recognize words and comprehend at the same time. Reading fluency also affects a child’s motivation to read. Children (and adults!) typically do not enjoy activities that feel burdensome and difficult. When children’s reading is not fluent, they often don’t enjoy reading, and they are less inclined to practice reading, which may contribute even further to a decline in their reading skills.

In addition, learning to read fluently helps children become better prepared for the demands of the upper grades. 

In the middle school and high school, students are usually expected to do a lot of independent reading. Even if students can read accurately, if they are not fluent, they may take much longer to complete their schoolwork.

Fluent reading is a product of strong decoding and strong language comprehension. Less fluent readers, however, must focus their attention on figuring out the words, leaving them little attention for understanding the text.

Fluency is important because it frees students to understand what they read!

Reading fluently: what it looks like in kindergarten to third grade

In this milestones series from Great Schools, listen to how fluent readers sound in kindergarten through third grade.