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Reading Fluency vs Reading Comprehension

The goal of reading is to gain information, whether it is what happens to the characters in a story, or learning about the world. Reading fluency is the speed and accuracy of decoding words. Reading comprehension is the ability to understand what you are reading. A student is considered a proficient reader when reading fluency and reading comprehension are at grade level.

Achieving the proper balance between reading fluency and reading comprehension is important. Some students who struggle with learning to read will focus more on the mechanics of reading (decoding) and miss comprehending what they are reading. Other students can easily understand what they are reading even though they struggle with decoding.

It is important to develop both reading fluency and reading comprehension in all students. Fluid reading skills make reading easier and more enjoyable. Reading comprehension lets the student acquire knowledge and follow a story line. When there is a significant difference between fluency and comprehension skills it is wise to address them separately.

When reading comprehension skills are higher than reading fluency skills:

  1. Practicing reading fluency at the child’s reading decoding level will help build reading fluency skills.

  2. When reading fluency is low, consider these interventions:

  3. Does the child need repeated practice readings to develop a better reading rate?

  4. Does the child need phonemic rules to increase reading accuracy

  5. Does the child need rapid automatic naming skills to build the phonological loop?

  6. Listening to audiobooks, or being read to, at comprehension level, will enable a student who struggles with reading fluency to gain knowledge, build vocabulary, hone thinking skills, and develop the joy of the written word.

  7. Consider getting extra time for tests and exams so students can demonstrate their knowledge.

Check out my blog post on reading apps that use text-to-speech software to allow students to read along as the story is read to them. Bookshare offers free access to students with dyslexia or visual issues. These programs allow students to enhance their vocabulary and enjoyment of books. The best part of these apps is that they highlight the words as they read, encouraging students to read along.

When reading fluency skills are higher than reading comprehension skills:

  1. Make sure the student slows down and processes what the words are saying.

  2. Before beginning a book take time to discuss the cover and title with the student:

  3. Why do you think they chose this title?

  4. What do you think the book is going to be about?

  5. Stop and ask comprehension questions as you read:

  6. What do you think the main character looks like?

  7. What do you think the setting looks like?

  8. What do you think will happen next?

  9. Why do you think that character did that?

  10. Is what just happened in the book something you have ever experienced?

Fluid reading with good comprehension is the goal for all readers. Some students learn one aspect of reading more easily than the other. Take the time to build both fluency and comprehension so your child becomes a proficient reader.

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