Silent reading fluency - the hidden hurdle in reading

“Our children struggle with stamina and concentration, but nothing we do seems to help” – sound familiar?

This is one of the most common challenges schools face when they first come to us for support. “Being able to read but not able to understand what they read”, is another.

The pillars of reading

Our online reading programme, Reading Plus focuses on fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary, three of the five essential pillars of reading. These three pillars are critical as pupils make the shift from the learning-to-read stage to the reading-to-learn stage of reading development: ultimately leading them to become proficient readers who can effectively use reading for learning at their expected level.

The programme also focuses on pupil’s intrinsic motivation for reading by measuring their individual self-improvement belief, confidence, and interest in reading. All of these components come together to develop reading proficiency.

Image: Flowchart

What is reading fluency?

Fluency is the automaticity and ease with which pupils navigate lines of text, decode common words, and construct meaning from text without having to devote a great deal of conscious effort or attention to the process of reading. It is important for reading proficiency and can be seen as the bridge between reading comprehension (the ability to read a text and understand its meaning) and word recognition.

The power of silent reading fluency

To develop strong and proficient readers, and to prepare pupils for lifelong success in various aspects of life, they need to become fluent in silent reading. An additional point worth noting here is that a child who can read with fluency is also more likely to be a child who will read for pleasure, and with curiosity.

How does word decoding impact comprehension?

Often, pupils exhaust their working memory by simply decoding text and therefore have little remaining brain space to devote to higher-order thinking skills. By developing students silent reading fluency and stamina you can remove this hurdle as with practice, word decoding speed increases, sight vocabulary expands, and word recognition becomes increasingly automatic. At some point, given sufficient exposure to appropriately levelled texts, an adequate percentage of words in a text will become sight words and, according to prevailing theories, working memory formerly required for word decoding can now be used to support reading comprehension.

Where does vocabulary fit?

Vocabulary knowledge and the percentage of words in a text already known to the reader determine their level of reading comprehension. Pupils tasked with reading text that is excessively challenging will often begin to read words quickly but with marginal comprehension. After a few paragraphs or pages, pupils who lack sufficient reading stamina often slip into this behaviour as well. Therefore, as a teacher, if you do not fully understand your pupil’s text comprehension, measuring their reading ability and being able to set their reading level, will be difficult.

In contrast, silent reading rates associated with good comprehension are a meaningful measure of reading fluency and are distinguished by the label comprehension-based silent reading rates.

How can Reading Plus help with silent reading fluency?

All measures of silent reading fluency in our online programme Reading Plus are comprehension-based silent reading rates so students will be individually placed at their current reading level.

Reading Plus develops students stamina and fluency by using a Guided Window system, which guides the reader’s eyes across a page of text. This is done at a bespoke speed for each pupil to build fluency and stamina.

Read more about the Guided Window feature here.

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