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Reading Fluency

Our guide is aimed at parents and students so they 

  1. Understand what reading fluency is 
  2. Understand how to use it to develop reading fluency skills 

Fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. In order to understand what they read, children must be able to read fluently whether they are reading aloud or silently. When reading aloud, fluent readers read in phrases and add intonation appropriately. Their reading is smooth and has expression.

Why is fluency important to your child's progress? 

Children learn to read in three stages:          Decoding -> Re-call ->   Fluency

Fluency is the final and most important stage in developing the skills needed to be able to understand meanings of words in context when reading. At GCSE the word count has significantly increased in recent years, with maths papers having over 1000 words! Students therefore, need to be able to read accurately and at speed in order to be successful in their exams. 

If students increase their reading speed to 120wpm (with understanding) the gains in time to process and respond to questions can be enormous. However, the average speed for a 14 year old without any learning difficulties is around 150wpm. On the papers analysed, the average gain would be approximately 5m 30s, with the maximum gain (English Literature) being 12m 15s. 

Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Maths papers would be significantly impacted, particularly students sitting the Foundation Tier papers, which in almost all cases have a significantly higher word count than the Higher Tier papers. So, the message is clear, if your child's fluency improves, so will their grades! 

Reading fluency targets: 


WPM target 

Transition from Year 6 – Year 7 

90 wpm 

Foundation Years – end of Year 9 

90-120 wpm 

Mastery Years – End of Year 11 

120-190 wpm 

Average adult reading speed 

250 wpm 


How can I tell if my child needs help with the reading fluency? 

Below are some indications of what you and your child may experience in their reading fluency needs developing. 

A child's perspective: What I feel: 

Here are some ways students may describe what the feel reading: 

  • I hate reading or this book is stupid. 

  • I get stuck when I try to read a lot of words at once. 

  • I cannot remember what I just read. 

  • It takes so long to read something and makes me tired. 

  • I can't even think about what this means. 

A parent's perspective: What I see at home: 

Here are some clues for parents that a child may have problems with fluency: 

  • He/she knows how to read words but seems to take a long time to read a short book or passage silently. 

  • He/she reads a book with no expression. 

  • He/she stumbles a lot and loses his place when reading something aloud. 

  • He/she reads aloud very slowly. 

  • He/she moves her mouth when reading silently (subvocalizing). 

So what can you and your child do to develop reading fluency? 

  1. Firstly, we need to work out the reading speed - words read per minute - so we have a starting points and can track progress. 
  2. Once we know the reading speed and have logged it then we need to practise reading every day! 
  3. Log your reading speed at regular intervals so as to track your progress over time. 

Here are some ways we can improve reading fluency at home: 

Paired or "Buddy" Reading 

The easiest and best way to help your child develop fluency is to sit with your child and read! Read together every day, which is often called paired or buddy reading. To use paired reading, simply take turns reading aloud. You go first, as your reading provides a model of what good fluent reading sounds like. Then, ask your child to re-read the same page you just read. You will notice that your child's reading will start to sound more and more like yours. Do this for several pages. Once your child is comfortable enough, and familiar enough with the book, take turns reading page for page. 

Reread Favourite Books 

Another way parents can help develop fluency is to build a tall stack of books that your child can read quickly and easily. Encourage your child to reread favourite books over and over again. With each reading, you may notice your child reading a bit easier, a bit faster, and with a bit more confidence and expression. 

Record It 

Another fun way to practice reading and build fluency is to have your child create her own audio books. This can be done simply with a tape recorder or audio recording feature or app (like Audiobook) on your phone. Or use something more sophisticated like StoryKit, where a user can create an electronic storybook and record audio to accompany it. Regardless of the method you choose, your child will be practicing what they want to record, and that reading practice is critical. Sharing your audio recordings with family and friends is a great motivator too! 

These activities are easy and require very few materials. Doing these activities with your child will help build fluency — a skill that will last a lifetime. 

Top 10 tips to help children enjoy reading 

The School reading list 

100 fiction books all children should read before leaving secondary school 

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