The 4 Pillars of Reading Fluency

Myth: The Correct Words Per Minute is all that matters in reading.

Truth: Fluency includes rate, accuracy, prosody and comprehension.

Reading Fluency is defined as “accurate reading at a minimal rate with appropriate prosodic features and deep understanding” (Hudson, Mercer, & Lane, 2000).  This definition includes all the key components of reading fluency and lists them in what seems the correct order. These 4 components each contribute to reading fluency.


Fluent reading is first accurate reading. Never consider a reader to be fluent if s/he made many errors. Nor would you expect a reader to never make a mistake.  Acceptable levels of accuracy in reading should range from 95% to 98%.


Reading rate incorporates correct words per minute, but not at a maximum rate. This is a common misunderstanding about fluency.  Fluent readers do not read as fast as they can.   What is the ‘minimum rate’ for my student? This depends on the age and grade of the child.  Many experts disagree on what this rate should be, but most agree on a range that is acceptable. Parents are astounded when they find out how “fast” their child should read according to current Texas Standards.


Appropriate PROSODIC FEATURES means that when students read aloud, they should use “good expression” with appropriate rhythm, intonation, phrasing, and stress patterns of syllables. Fluent reading should sound like speech. It should be interesting to listen to the child read.  The research on prosody in reading shows that focus on prosodic features can improve overall reading skills faster than a focus on speed of the reader. Common sense tells us that if there is little inflection and sentences are monotone, the reader is not as likely to enjoy the reading process.


The point of reading is to be able to learn something!  There is a correlation between fluency and comprehension.  The mistaken belief is if you increase the “rate or speed” a child reads the comprehension automatically improves. Not so!   Many, if not all of our dys-fluent students have difficulty making sense of what they read.  Students who struggle with fluency also read significantly less than their more skillful peers and fall further behind in skills development.

Here is the Bottom Line: If information comes in inaccurately or too slowly for the brain to process, then the brain will not comprehend and reading will not be productive.   If a child does not enjoy reading or is not efficient and effective, then you must ask yourself these 3 questions about your child’s reading.

  1. Can your child decode (read easily) words that he or she has never read before?
  2. Does your child pause at the punctuation or just run through it as if there is only one long sentence in the paragraph?
  3. Does it take so long to read the sentence that the student does not remember what is read?

If you live in San Antonio, and need more information about your child’s reading skills or are frustrated about the progress your child is making, call us at (210) 495-2626 and ask about our Parent Information Meetings.


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