The importance of reading fluency

//The importance of reading fluency

Following on from a recent post on the folly of forcing children to read along as they are being read to, I presented my thoughts on reading fluency and the problems with ‘reading along’ at researchED’s English & MFL conference in the stunning surroundings of Oxford University’s Examination Rooms.

For those who might be interested, here are the slides I used.

2017-04-03T00:02:04+00:00April 3rd, 2017|reading|


  1. […] post The importance of reading fluency appeared first on David Didau: The Learning […]

  2. Michael Pye April 3, 2017 at 11:04 am - Reply

    I found these slides interesting but challenging. Slide 17 in particular. If listening comprehension aids understanding (does it also aid decoding by the way?) should I read to the students before hand then let them read alone?

    Some sources on the internet argue that students should listen and follow text on the board (in front of them if using headphones). If I remember correctly from previous posts you are against this.

    Trying to understand how to use this to aid reading in lessons other then English. Also are there any strategies for using prosody or does it just naturally occur as part of the listening. Please assume I know nothing in your reply.

    • David Didau April 3, 2017 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      1. Listening to a text being read aloud will not provide much help for students struggling to decode.
      2. Yes, I reckon following along overloads working memory
      3. A fluent reader who understands the text will use prosody naturally.

  3. Reading - domhdomh | Pearltrees April 3, 2017 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    […] Like all good inset, this give me time to think and reflect on new ideas and filter some thoughts into proposals and practices. This blog constitutes an extension of this filtering process. David’s secret, which I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing, is that literacy is all about making the implicit explicit. English teaching, reading and literacy matters. The importance of reading fluency. […]

  4. Tom Burkard April 3, 2017 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    There aren’t any easy answers, but if decoding skills are weak there is no point in making pupils struggle with understanding at the same time. We develop automatic recognition of words pretty much in relation to the number or times we’ve encountered it, but if we struggle to decode words in the first instance, we are unlikely to read any more than we have to. So when basic phonological skills have not been thoroughly mastered at an early age, it is extremely difficult do anything if you aren’t in a position to back up and go right back to basics.

    Your suggestion is about as good as any, but in an ideal world pupils would always be reading text where nearly all the words can be read fluentlwy–this enables them to focus on the meaning of new words.

    One of the paradoxes of learning new vocabulary is that after the age of 9, fluent readers learn most new vocabulary from reading. Yet on the other hand, research has shown that guessing is a very unreliable strategy for identifying unknown words: content words–as opposed to function words–can only be guessed correctly about 10% of the time, and this assumes that the word is in the reader’s spoken vocabulary. Pupils learn new vocabulary from reading through repeated exposures, which enable them to refine (or enrich) their understanding of new words. But this doesn’t work very well when decoding skills are too poor for the reader to construct a sound form of the word.

  5. chestnut April 3, 2017 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Another reason that English is harder to comprehend is the lack of grammar markers within sentences, and a reliance of meaning from the word order.
    Your diagram on slide 6 is misleading I feel. Is grade 1 the same age for everyone across Europe? Scandinavian countries famously do not start teaching reading until 7 so how can children be so good at reading in grade 1 (rising 6)?
    Finally I cannot help myself but especially as this is a slide show about reading – slide 17 practice is spelt wrongly it should be practise.

    • David Didau April 3, 2017 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      1. Grammar markers don’t affect decoding although they can certainly interfere with comprehension.

      2. The research I linked to on Slide 6 explains your query. Basically these figures are corrected for age and show error rates after 1 year of reading instruction.

      3. Whoops.

  6. […] my friends are not tweachers, they are real people. LINKS to posts discussed in this article: David Didau Martin Robinson Jo Facer Carl Hendrick Katie Ashford Arlene Holmes-Henderson Research Ed Tom […]

  7. Stuart Garner April 6, 2017 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Has any one any experience or thoughts on ‘Reading Reconsidered’? It’s an American initiative, which is seemingly very successful, and relies heavily on children reading along. In fact, at selected points, different children are asked to take over the reading. They are expected to be ‘tracking’ the text and should be ready to read at any moment. The switch points are carefully chosen so as 1) the text is matched to the child’s reading ability and 2) to appear ‘random’ s children cannot predict when a switch will occur (ie not at the end of every paragraph or every third line).

    I can find no reviews, responses or critiques of it anywhere.

  8. […] The next most important factor is the quality of assessment that exists in a school. In too many schools, teachers don’t really know what their students know and what barriers they have to learning. The biggest invisible barrier to academic success is a lack of reading fluency. The DfE estimate that 20% of children leave primary school unable to fluently decode and therefore unable to access an academic curriculum. But because almost no schools measure reading fluency, they have no idea whether students are capable of being academically successful.Arguably, changing peer culture will be impossible if some students are unable to read well enough to taken on the values we want them to espouse. There is almost no reason why a child cannot learn the relatively simple and small domain of phoneme/grapheme relationships required to read fluently, but if we don’t even know it’s an issue, they’re doomed. I’ve written more about this here. […]

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