Did you know there are five key skills that help children learn to read? The fourth is ‘fluency’. Read on for seven great tips on how to help your little one lay the foundations for this important skill.
What is ‘fluency’?
‘Fluency’ is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly and smoothly. When reading aloud, good fluency also means that your expression and pacing sound natural – just like they would when you’re talking.
Children who struggle with reading often have poor fluency – they can’t figure out words quickly, so their reading is stilted and they find it harder to understand what they are reading. When they become fluent readers, they spend more time on understanding what the text means, and find reading more enjoyable.
How can you help your child?
Even before your little one starts learning to read, there is a lot that you can do at home to lay the foundations for fluent reading. These seven tips will help.
Read, read, read!
The most important thing is for you to read with your little one, read to them and let them see you reading. When you read aloud, your little one hears what fluent reading sounds like. Children also like imitating their parents, so if they see you reading, they will be more likely to pick up a book of their own. This will help your child develop a love of reading and see it as an enjoyable and useful skill.
Read with expression
When you read aloud, use lots of expression. Change your tone, pace, pitch and volume to add meaning, and try some funny voices! It makes reading time more enjoyable for both of you, and encourages your little one to start their own reading with expression rather than a monotone. If you are not a confident reader yourself, you can listen to audiobooks with your child and follow along with the print copy of the book. You can find audiobooks online or at your local library.
Read and repeat
Choose a short story or rhyme and read it aloud while your little one follows along. Then read a line or phrase at a time, and encourage your child to ‘read’ (or recite) it back to you. Your little one will naturally mimic the expression they hear in your voice, giving them great practise at reading with fluency!
Read favourite books
If your child has a favourite book and wants you to read it over and over again, that’s great! Listening to the familiar text, and ‘reading’ along with you, helps them to develop expression and fluency. You can vary things up by taking turns at reading, or (if your little one will let you) reading it in a different way – perhaps the mama bear could have a deep voice instead of a squeaky voice. Or perhaps someone else in the family could read the book to your child today – it’s good for your child to hear different voices, expression and reading styles.
When your little one mimics your expression, or tells you a story with dramatic expression, praise them for it, for example ‘Wow, you made the bear sound even more scary than I did, I love that!’ This is a great way to encourage your child to read with expression later on.
Let your child be the guide
Children develop at their own pace, and your little one may not be interested in ‘reading’ familiar books to you right now. That’s ok! Be patient and don’t push it – it’s important to keep learning fun. By providing exposure to books, language and stories, you are helping them lay the foundations for fluency.
Use your home language
If your home language is not English, you can also apply the same ideas in your own language. This will help lay the foundations for your little one to learn to read English (and your own language).
What about the other skills?
For tips on how to help your little one lay the foundations for the other four key reading skills, see these articles.