Reading fluency is the ability to read connected text rapidly, effortlessly and automatically (Hook & Jones, 2004; Meyer, 2002). Readers must develop fluency to make the bridge from word recognition to reading comprehension (Jenkins, Fuchs, van den Broek, Espin & Deno, 2003). It is essential for all students to read fluently as they are “learning to read” up to Grade 3, but beginning in Grade 4, they are “reading to learn” (Chall, 1983).
Middle school students represent a crucial starting point because they are in the midst of an important transition: they are now regularly being asked to apply their knowledge of how to read to learn from texts (Chall, 1983; Hagaman & Reid, 2008). Students with learning disabilities (“LD”) are most at risk for presenting difficulties in fluency, due to their weak ability to read sight words, decode new words, read phrases and sentences automatically and rapidly, leading to difficulties in reading comprehension (Chard, Vaughn & Tyler, 2002; Meyer & Felton, 1999).
Despite recent attention to reading fluency and ways to improve fluency, effective interventions for improving fluency are not widely known (Chard, Vaughn & Tyler, 2002). FLUENCY LaBerge and Samuels (1974) presented an automaticity theory of reading argued that proficient word-recognition skills underlie fluent reading and adequate comprehension of text. According to the model, fluent readers are characterized by the ability to read quickly and without conscious effort (Logan, 1997).
Dysfluent readers, by contrast, are identified by their excessively slow, laborious reading, which, in turn, impairs comprehension. 1 Similarly, Perfetti’s (1977, 1985) verbal efficiency model suggested that slow word processing speed interferes with automaticity of reading, and therefore, with comprehension. Perfetti extended this explanation to suggest that slow word reading may be due to working memory.
Thus, both rapid reading of high-frequency words and rapid decoding as a means to enhance text understanding appear critical for typical reading development (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp & Jenkins, 2001; Kuhn & Stahl, 2000; Meyer & Felton, 1999). FACTORS OF FLUENCY Reading fluency is best understood by exploring its underlying factors, in order to develop activities and interventions to help the struggling reader. 1. Speed When a reader can recognize and pronounce the words being read quickly, he or she will spend less mental energy on decoding, leaving more mental energy to comprehend (Biemiller, 1978; LaBerge & Samuels, 1974).
Often, a lack of comprehension is not due to deficiency in vocabulary or a lack of understanding sentence structure, but rather is the result of having spent all of the available brain power on decoding individual words or word parts (Biemiller, 1978; Hudson, Pullen, Lane, & Torgesen, 2009; LaBerge and Samuels, 1974; Samuels, Miller, & Eisenberg, 1979; Wolf, Bowers, & Biddle, 2000). 2. Accuracy Accuracy involves both the ability to decode words letter-by-letter and recognize how the letter/sound relationships work together to make words and the ability to recognize whole words and even phrases by sight.
When a reader omits words, reads words incorrectly, adds words, or repeats words, the meaning of the passage gets lost. The more words that are read incorrectly, the more meaning is lost (LaBerge & Samuels, 1974; Samuels, Miller, & Eisenberg, 1979; Wolf, Bowers, & Biddle, 2000). 2 3. Prosody Prosody is the ability to read with accurate expressiveness. Prosody is sometimes seen as more of an indicator that comprehension is occurring rather than a precursor to its occurrence, (Jitendra et al., 2004;
Kame’enui & Simmons, 2001). INTERVENTIONS FOR IMPROVING FLUENCY Many of the approaches to improving fluency could be categorized as focusing on repeated reading (Meyer & Felton, 1999), whether through partner reading (ArreagaMayer, Terry, & Greenwood, 1998; Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes, & Simmons, 1997) or through other procedures that support repeated reading (Topping & Ehly, 1998). In fact, readers at different levels of proficiency benefited from different aspects of the interventions.
For example, poor readers may have benefited more in terms of word reading accuracy, whereas more proficient readers may have benefited in developing prosody. One of the more essential sub-skills in fluent reading is letter knowledge, as dysfluent grapheme–phoneme conversion may cause problems in reading speed (Wimmer, 1996). If children have problems in early phonological development, it will be difficult for them to develop clear representations that can be easily accessed.
This may then lead to difficulty in learning the grapheme–phoneme relationship (Manis et al. , 1997; Richardson, 1998). In addition, the blending of phonemes into syllables and words is important. Rapid word identification is facilitated by the ability to perceive and use multi-letter units as opposed to relying on (often laborious) letter-to-letter decoding. These sight letter chunks should facilitate the speed of word recognition (Wolf, Miller, & Donnelly, 2000). Here, accuracy is a prerequisite for fluent reading. Syllables and words that are read correctly contribute to the formation of orthographic representations at the lexical level.
After mastering fluent grapheme–phoneme correspondences, the next challenge in a transparent orthography is the blending of single-letter phonemes and basic phonological segments to build strong memory representations and automatic recognition and retrieval processes (Aro et al. , 1999; Wimmer, 1993). 3 Efficient decoding strategies permit readers to quickly and automatically translate the letters or spelling patterns of written words into speech sounds so that they can identify words and gain rapid access to their meanings.
Children must learn to identify words quickly and effortlessly, so that they can focus on the meaning of what they are reading. It cannot be assumed, however, that developing accurate decoding skills guaranteed application of those skills to fluency (Torgesen, 1997; Torgesen & Hudson, 2006). Fluency development requires intentional, well-designed practice. Reading fluency (accuracy and speed) intervention can be based on a programme which systematically proceeds from the repetition of syllables towards training at the word and, by extension, sentence and text reading level.
Fluency intervention programs focus on the decoding and reading comprehension skills was found to be effective in increasing fluency and improving reading comprehension (Chard, Vaughn & Tyler, 2002; NRP, 2000; Therrien, 2004). To me, not only the findings about fluency intervention programs from these researches that are important, and also their recommendations as follows: 1. A relatively long implementation period; 2. Administration of the intervention by an adult; 3. Regular corrective feedback; 4. A system for moving students into progressively more difficult material; and 5. Systematic record keeping.
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