Your Cart

Freephone: 1800 244 542

Mastering Reading Fluency - The Pillar to Solid Reading Comprehension

In the vast landscape of reading instruction, fluency stands as a crucial pillar to comprehension. According to the research of Hasbrouck and Glaser (2019): “Passage Reading Fluency is reading with reasonable accuracy at an appropriate rate with suitable expression. It allows and supports deep and accurate comprehension and motivation.” It needs to have purpose of understanding, and it’s not merely about reading fast; instead, it encapsulates the foundation of accuracy, with appropriate rate of reading, and meaningful expression.

Reading fluency and comprehension are directly linked. Fluency is necessary for comprehension; however, fluency does not guarantee comprehension (Hasbrouck).

“Fluency is a complex, multifaceted skill that evolves as a reader progresses.”

Fluency is an outcome

Reading fluency is not regarded as a skill but, together with comprehension and expression, is an outcome. When examining Hollis Scarborough’s Reading Rope we can see that the rope tightens developmentally and it is progressive through the stages of being an Emergent 5-year-old “loosely woven” reader through to a Novice 6–7-year-old, tightening the rope in the Grade 1-2 Transition Stage and finally by mid-year 2 developing into an established, proficient and skilled reader who has fluent execution of word recognition and text comprehension.

“[Fluency is] akin to Goldilocks eating her porridge—neither too fast nor too slow, but just right.”

Fluency is a complex, multifaceted skill that evolves as a reader progresses. Initially, it’s about accurate decoding, gradually encompassing word recognition, phrasing and comprehension. It’s akin to Goldilocks eating her porridge—neither too fast nor too slow, but just right. According to Stahl and Kuhn (2020), fluent reading should sound like speech, resonating with pitch, tone, volume, emphasis, rhythm and phrasing. There is no evidence to suggest that reading fast contributes to understanding—quite the contrary, reading too quickly and lifting words meaninglessly off a page has a negative effect on comprehension skills.

Expression conveys meaning and needs to be explicitly modelled. It encompasses pitch, tone, rhythm, phrasing and volume. The meaning of a sentence can be altered when words are emphasised in different parts of the sentence. Expression develops when the reader has developed meaning of a passage and is therefore an outcome of comprehension (Groen et al, 2016).
Teachers can assess each of the three dimensions of reading fluency. Accuracy and automaticity can be assessed by measuring a student’s reading rate and words correct per minute (WCPM) (Rasinski, 2014; Hudson, Lane & Pullen, 2005). Tracking and monitoring weaker students throughout the year provides a clear record of their progress. Students with a low total of correct words per minute will require fluency intervention.

Mechanics of fluency

  1. Word decoding: Mastery of phoneme awareness and letter-sound correspondences lays the foundation for word decoding. Visual alphabetic code recognition, orthographic knowledge and sight word recognition further enhance word-level fluency which is translated into reading comprehension. Sight word knowledge is specific to an individual reader’s schema and exposure to print. “Help students build a large orthographic lexicon” (David Kilpatrick, 2016).
  2. Text decoding skills: The lexicon of sight words, orthographic knowledge and the proficiency to decode connected text are key factors in developing reading fluency. Fluency is progressive and requires accuracy at letter, word, phrase and sentence level.
  3. Comprehension: Metacognition, vocabulary, and understanding of passage context are vital for fluency. Fluent reading directly influences comprehension, as inaccurate or overly fast reading can hinder understanding.

Explicit instruction strategies

Reading fluency should be an allocated and orchestrated reading practice time with someone listening to the reader to correct all errors. “Perfected practice over time makes perfect and permanent” (Anita Archer, 2003). The emphasis lies in “the Triple A—reading accuracy, automaticity, and the ability for the reader to access meaning” (Hasbrouck & Glaser, 2019).

“There is no evidence to suggest that reading fast contributes to understanding.”

Modelling fluent reading: Expose students to varied models of fluent oral reading. This helps them grasp how a reader makes sense of the text with reading accuracy, appropriate speed, and prosody. “Oral, guided reading practice in connected text with feedback improves fluency for ‘typical’ students.” (NICHD, 2000)

  • Daily practice: Provide ample opportunities for daily practice in reading fluency. Allow students to read books at their mastery level, promoting accuracy and automaticity.
  • Peer reading: Pair students with adults or skilled peers for one-on-one reading sessions. Adult modelling followed by student reading with support enhances fluency.
  • Wide variety of texts: Explore diverse genres like narratives, poetry, jokes, and songs. Reader’s theatre fosters engagement and collaboration.
  • Repeated reading/Deep reading: Repeatedly read the same text three to five times, incorporating feedback and guidance. This gold standard practice for 5-10 minutes daily aids in developing fluency and comprehension. Deliver feedback, discuss meaning and model if necessary.
  • Choral reading: Engage the whole class or small groups in reading aloud together led by the teacher at a moderate rate. This non-threatening approach fosters a sense of unity and rhythm.
  • Paired reading: Pair stronger readers with less fluent ones, or students with similar fluency levels. This structured partner reading promotes collaboration and skill development. “Structured partner reading improves fluency” (Osborn, Lehr & Hiebert, 2002). The lowest readers in the class should not engage in paired reading but rather be explicitly taught during this time with the teacher.
  • Silent reading: Ensure silent reading is not mere pretence. Hold students accountable by posing questions before reading and verifying comprehension afterwards. The teacher meanders through the class listening to individual students read. 
  • Cloze reading: The teacher reads with the students at a moderate rate. Delete meaningful words intentionally, prompting students to fill in the blanks. This maintains attention and provides practice with challenging materials.

“Expose students to varied models of fluent oral reading.”


Reading fluency is not an isolated skill, but a blend of accuracy, pace, and expression that enhances comprehension. Through explicit instruction and varied practice techniques, educators can empower students to become fluent, confident readers. By nurturing fluency, we pave the way for a lifelong love of reading and continual growth in literacy skills.

Beata Goldman – Sunshine Books Literacy Specialist, Australia

Free shipping

On all orders over $200

Easy 30 days returns

30 days money back guarantee

International Warranty

Offered in the country of usage

100% Secure Checkout

PayPal / MasterCard / Visa

Discover more from Sunshine Books Australia

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading