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What Is Reading Fluency?
It's an ability that comes easier to some than others, but reading fluency means the same for everyone: the ability to read words and sentences with relative ease - quickly and smoothly, without much hesitation. To be classed as a fluent reader, you should be able to process the words in a passage and speak them aloud to match what is written. However, people who struggle with severe reading disabilities may have problems doing this, and could require intervention to help and support them in overcoming their difficulties.
Not only is reading fluency important to accurately and quickly read an extract, it is also required to comprehend what it actually says. Without knowing what the words are, and being able to say out loud the sentence that they make, you will be unable to understand the meaning of the passage as a whole.
Properly fluent readers will read passages almost automatically; they won't have to think about the words consciously, but their brains will deal with the information, then process and digest it. Don't be mistaken, however. People are not born with the ability to do this, but instead, will learn it over a long time. Practice alone will not make them fluent - they will need to be corrected when they make mistakes to properly understand the concept of reading.
Other than the above, one of the best ways of determining who is a fluent reader and who hasn't quite reached that stage yet is by listening closely to their voice. Can you hear expression when they're representing different characters? Are any pauses natural, and not just hesitations?
Now we are increasingly aware of what determines a fluent reader, we can begin to examine why a high level of reading fluency is important. The main benefit of being able to read fluently is that you can easily comprehend the text in front of you. People who aren't fluent at reading are forced to spend most of their time trying to figure out what the words say and how they make up sentences. Because of this, they have less time to devote to understanding the actual content of the passage.
To ensure a young person will develop into a fluent reader, all steps must be taken seriously when learning the basics of reading. They must have a strong understanding of phonics and phonemic awareness, as this is the basis for all reading - even when they progress onto full novels. To understand letters, they must be able to comprehend the two above elements. Letters are needed to appreciate words, and words to understand sentences. Therefore, everything stems from the initial requirements: phonics and phonemic awareness. It is this that even helps build up a personal word-bank (vocabulary).
To improve reading fluency, teachers will provide small, individual tasks to focus on some of the main abilities that are needed to be able to read. For example, pupils must recognize words when they are isolated, and when they are amongst other words within a sentence. They also need to be subconsciously aware of words, so that they can, in good time, read with little or no hesitation. With all of the above to learn, maybe fluent reading isn't so simple after all? Realistically, though, it is achievable.