10 Things to Do When Your Child Isn’t Reading Fluently

help child read fluently

Fluency is the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression. In order to become a confident reader who reads for meaning and enjoyment, children need to be able to read fluently, both silently and aloud.

Children often receive a lot of support in learning how to decode, but once they master the basics many receive few strategies to help them with fluency. A lack of fluency can make stories disjointed and lead to a great deal of frustration, even discouraging the reader from reading altogether.

Here are ten things you can do to help your child become a fluent and confident reader.

1. Know the signs – Be aware of clues that your child is having problems with fluency. Common signs include reading without expression, stumbling while reading aloud, reading aloud very slowly or at a mixed rate, ignoring punctuation, and moving the mouth while reading silently.

2. Make a habit of ‘buddy’ reading – The easiest and most effective way to help your child improve their fluency is by sitting down together and reading. Pair up as reading buddies every day, and take turns reading aloud. Your reading will provide a model of what fluent reading sounds like.

3. ‘Copycat’ (echo) reading – While reading together, ask your child to play ‘copycat’. Read one passage at a time and have your child read it back to you, matching your voice and intonation. This provides them with a vocal model of fluent reading that they can emulate.

4. Follow the finger – Encourage your child to follow the words on the page with their finger as you read them aloud. This will help them build stronger connections between spoken words and their written form.

5. Learn certain texts by heart – Learning and reciting short and fun texts, such as song lyrics, nursery rhymes and poems are great for building your child’s confidence, and helps them to become familiar with the rhythm of fluent reading.

6. Take breaks – If your child is stumbling a lot, let them rest. Forcing them to continue reading will only increase their frustration. Instead, close the book and acknowledge how hard they are trying. You can also turn back to a page they feel more confident about, and invite them to read it again.

7. Use audio books – Listening to what a fluent and expressive reader sounds like is important for building fluency. Audio books are a great tool for exposing your child to fluent reading, and are particularly helpful for reluctant readers, who can listen to the audio while following the text on the page.

8. Reread best-loved books – Practice makes perfect. It doesn’t matter how often your child wants to read a certain book; rereading the books they love makes valuable practice for becoming a fluent reader. With each reading, your child will become faster, more confident, and more expressive.

9. Throw in the theatrics – Dramatic play is a wonderful way to build essential early reading skills. Help your child write a short script and have fun rehearsing the lines. Invite other family members and friends to join in, and don’t forget to be silly and expressive to model fluency.

10. Hit record – Use a tape recorder or voice recording app to create audio books at home. Your child can read a book they love, or read aloud an original story they’ve come up with. You can even take turns reading aloud certain passages. This is a great motivator for your child to perfect their pace, expression, volume, and accuracy.

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2 thoughts on “10 Things to Do When Your Child Isn’t Reading Fluently

  1. My son will be 10 in January and still struggles to read. He reads the first letter and guesses the rest of the word. If he slows down and sounds out the letters he’ll get the word perfect. He hates reading and sees it as a chore. He loves his video games but doesn’t read instructions so struggles to even complete the game. I’m really lost on how to help him

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    • Hi Katie,

      There are a few possible reasons why your son may still be guessing at words.

      Guessing is a common strategy for children who have missed out on early phonics instruction. They are most likely to have been taught the whole word method or to read sight words without decoding. The child gets used to looking at the initial sound, the shape of the word and neglects to sound out the middle parts. It often has little to do with being lazy or disinterested in reading – but you can see why reading becomes meaningless if you don’t comprehend the text.

      Additionally, your son may not have been taught how to use context clues. Fluent readers don’t need to decode every sound but can look at the shape of the word and use the words around it to determine its meaning. Not all children acquire this skill and continue to stab at words that are completely out of context.

      It’s really worth having a chat with your child’s teacher. They will be in a better position to assess why he is still guessing.The teacher should also test your son’s ability to use context clues when reading.

      This is a topic we will be covering in more detail soon on the Reading Eggs blog. To receive email alerts when new posts are published you can subscribe to the Reading Eggs blog on the right hand side of the page.

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