Developing Fluency

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Fluent reading is defined as being able to read with speed and accuracy.  It is an important skill for all readers to develop as there is a direct correlation between fluency and comprehension.  Yet, fluency is a skill many struggling readers find difficult to develop.

Developing fluency needs to be approached at multiple levels.

Firstly, students need to be able to quickly and automatically recognise the sounds represented by the different letters and letter combinations (graphemes) used in English.  In other words, they need good phonic knowledge (Mergherbi et al., 2018).

At the next level, students need to be able to quickly and automatically recognise common letter strings containing the graphemes they have learned in isolation. For example, they should be able to automatically read the following line of letter strings, easily recognising the ones in which the vowel is pronounced as a long vowel sound because it is a part of a split digraph and which is the short vowel sound: abe eck og ine ub ap ete oke im ude.

Next, students need to be able to quickly and automatically recognise a growing number of words. This list of words needs to include words which contain the graphemes that they have learned in isolation as well as commonly occurring words which they may not yet have learned the grapheme (e.g., said, they).

At the next level, students need to be able to fluently read chunks of text which requires students to not only rapidly recognition of a large number of words, but also the ability to process chunks of text rather than focusing on one word at a time. Research dating back to the 1970s shows that repeated reading, which is repeatedly reading a passage of text until a pre-set time and accuracy criteria is reached, is an effective strategy for improving fluency. In fact, a recently published meta-analysis of 19 studies by Stevens and 17) examining interventions for student with Learning Difficulties in kindergarten through 5th grade showed repeated reading remains the most effective intervention for improving reading fluency.

Finally, students need to be able to read fluently for sustained periods of time. In other words, they need to be able to read from books. The research consistently shows that beginning readers benefit most from decodable readers (i.e., the student has the phonic knowledge to decode the content words). Once students are reading they benefit most from authentic texts.

These types of fluency activities are integral to the Cracking the ABC Code Multisensory Reading Programs


Megherbi, H., Elbro, C., Oakhill, J., Segui, J., & New, B. (2018). The emergence of automaticity in reading: Effects of orthographic depth and word decoding ability on an adjusted Stroop measure. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 166, 652-663.

Stevens, E.A., Melodee A. Walker, M.A., & Vaughn, S. (2017). The effects of reading fluency interventions on the reading fluency and reading comprehension performance of elementary students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 50(5), 576–590.