As an elementary teacher, I have often thought reading fluency plays a large role in a child’s reading development. Few reading programs give fluency the recognition it deserves. Reading fluency has been a prominent and reliable benchmark for me, even when students have comprehension difficulties. Once fluency is assessed, the results were used to place students in their reading ability group. Often times, the fluent readers were placed in the high ability reading groups. In the past, our district used a reading program that gave very little focus to reading fluency and few strategies for improvement.
It assessed fluency based on rate and accuracy—not prosody. The previous reading series also failed to assess the students’ comprehension after they read independently. The non-fluent readers spent so much effort on word identification; it is difficult for them to enjoy reading the selection. I believe this is one reason they enjoy being read to. Students can comprehend a story when it is read aloud to them, but it is their lack of fluency that inhibits comprehension when it is their turn to read.
A current goal in our school improvement plan is to improve reading fluency; therefore, in this review of literature, I will examine reading fluency by focusing on how it affects comprehension. Literature Review The attention given to reading fluency has fluctuated throughout the years in education. It is currently gaining recognition and once again becoming an advertised component in most reading programs. According to Avanchan (2010), fluency is a critical element of reading and should be taught in every school. This Literature Review will focus on the following research questions:
1. What is reading fluency? 2. What strategies can be used to improve reading fluency? 3. How does reading fluency affect reading comprehension? What is reading fluency? Reading fluency is defined as the ability to recognize words rapidly and accurately. Under the reading fluency umbrella, there are three main components of fluency: accuracy, rate, and prosody (Nathan & Stanovich, 2001). Reading accuracy is the ability to decode and recognize words correctly. Without reading accuracy, a young reader cannot interpret the author’s intent (Evanchan, 2010).
To be considered an accurate reader a student has a strong knowledge of the alphabetic principle, ability to blend letters, and a significant bank of high frequency words (Hudson, Lane, & Pullen, 2005). Reading rate refers to the speed one can read at with fluidity (Evanchan, 2010). This component of reading fluency is often described as a reader’s automaticity. With automaticity, a reader can effortlessly identify words in text (Evanchan, 2010; Hudson et al. , 2005); however, accurate word recognition alone is not a strong indicator of fluency.
Speed also needs to be heavily considered. (Evanchan, 2005). Hudson et al. (2005) describe prosody as “the music of oral language” (p. 704). Prosody is what makes a reader enjoyable to listen to, because it includes appropriate phrasing, intonation, stress patterns, and duration (Hudson et al. , 2005). Prosodic reading suggests the reader has connected to the literature and understands what is being read (Hudson et al. , 2005). What strategies can be used to improve reading fluency? Numerous strategies can be used to improve reading fluency (Evanchan, 2010).
One strategy that continues to hold valor is repeated reading, which is when students continuously read the same passage until they have reached a level of fluency (Mastropieri, Leinart, & Scruggs, 1999). Once they have reached the predetermined level of fluency, they move to a more difficult passage. Hudson et al. (2005) suggested repeated reading is highly recommended for improving of fluency because it concentrates on all components of fluency: accuracy, rate, and prosody. Reader’s theater is another strategy where children practice repeated reading (Evanchan, 2010).
Reader’s theater brings a new, more exciting approach to repeated practice. Like repeated reading, reader’s theater focuses on all three elements of reading fluency. Reader’s theater requires students to reread, memorize, and perform the text, which are key components to improving fluency. Adding dramatic performance to a student’s reading experience will positively affect the student’s expression, or prosody, a key component to reading fluency (Nathan & Stanovich, 2001). Modeling fluency is essential so students can better understand what reading fluency sounds like.
Proper modeling focuses on accuracy, rate, phrasing, and prosody (Worthly & Broaddus, 2001). Evanchan (2010) suggested proper modeling gives students exposure to vocabulary above their independent reading level. Modeling allows students to be engaged with text they may wrestle with independently, and comprehension is also enhanced (Worthly & Broaddus, 2001). The student’s engagement and evidence of comprehension suggests students’ listening comprehension level is at a higher level than their independent reading levels (Evanchan, 2010).
How does reading fluency affect reading comprehension? There are five essential components to reading. They are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Evanchan (2010), referred to the components as links in a chain, and comprehension is the link that secures the chain; however, if one of the four other components are missing, the ultimate goal of comprehension cannot be obtained. Before a higher level of reading can be obtained, a student must be able to decode the words in text (Nathan & Stanovich, 2001).
Without word recognition, a reader is likely to misinterpret the author’s intent. Misinterpreting the text can develop a barrier for comprehension (Hudson et al. , 2005). When looking at fluency on a larger scale, developing automaticity forms the bridge between reading fluency and comprehension. (Pikulski & Chard, 2005). Although reading comprehension is not solely achieved through reading fluency, it certainly reflects upon it (2005). Automaticity and comprehension are intertwined and should not be separated during instructional modeling (2005).
Doing so may affect the ultimate goal of developing meaningful responses to the text (Applegate, Applegate, & Modla, 2009). Nathan and Stanovich (2001) and Hudson et al. (2005) agreed non-fluent readers have a difficult time focusing on comprehension because their cognitive capacity is limited, and they use all of their energy to decode words. Students who have efficient word identification and have achieved automaticity free up processing space so their cognitive resources can be used for comprehension and higher order thinking (Hudson et al. , 2005). Conclusion.
There is a significant amount of information that acknowledges reading fluency’s effect on reading comprehension. Through automaticity and prosody, a bridge can be built between reading fluency and comprehension. Reading fluency needs to become an instructional focus in the classroom. While rate seems to get most of the focus, all three components of reading fluency need and deserve to be addressed equally. The earlier reading fluency strategies are administered, the greater chance the student has to becoming a reader who can respond to literature thoughtfully and with meaning, which is the ultimate goal.
References Applegate, M. , Applegate, A. J. , & Modla, V. B. (2009). She’s my best reader; She just can’t comprehend: Studying the relationship between fluency and comprehension. Reading Teacher, 62(6), 512-521. doi:10. 1598/RT. 62. 6. 5 Evanchan, G. (2010). Fluency is a vital link in the comprehension chain. Ohio Reading Teacher, 40(1), 11-18. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/577071584? accountid=28680 Hudson, R. F. , Lane, H. B. , & Pullen, P. C. (2005). Reading fluency assessment and instruction: What, why, and how?.
Reading Teacher, 58(8), 702-714. doi:10. 1598/RT. 58. 8. 1 Nathan, R. G. , & Stanovich, K. E. (1991). The causes and consequences of differences in reading fluency. Theory Into Practice, 30(3), 176. Pikulski, J. J. , & Chard, D. J. (2005). Fluency: Bridge between decoding and reading comprehension. Reading Teacher, 58(6), 510-519. Worthy, J. , & Broaddus, K. (2001). Fluency beyond the primary grades: From group performance to silent, independent reading. Reading Teacher, 55(4), 334.