Fluent readers have the ability to smoothly recite the words on a page with proper timing and expression. But, many children first need lots of practice with reading fluency activities to build up their skill set.
Fluency is only one piece in the reading puzzle, but it’s an important one! When a child becomes a fluent reader, they can better connect with the text and strengthen their overall comprehension.
These reading fluency activities are a great place to start when practicing fluency with your budding readers!
Schools often recommend 20 minutes a day of reading for after school work. For many, this comes in the form of a reading log.
Why read 20 minutes a day?
If a student reads 20 minutes a day at home, they will hear over 1.8 million words in one year! This lends itself to an increase in vocabulary and knowledge. And according to K12reader.com, a child’s earning potential goes up for every year they spend reading (in only 100 minutes a week)!
Also, 20 minutes is a very small commitment. It’s doable. It’s something that can easily be completed each and every day. Make it part of your routine. Figure out the perfect place for your 20 minutes of reading. Right after school? Before bed? Stick with it!
Let your child hear your voice as you read.
Model the proper expression and fluent reading strategies while they listen to the text.
By reading aloud to your child, you’re giving them the opportunity to hear how the sentences and dialogue should flow.
Sometimes, reading can also be seen as “work” for your son or daughter to complete – by reading to them – you take the pressure off. Even though you’re still reading together, they can relax and listen to the story. Be sure to ask questions after you’re done reading to guarantee your little one was fully engaged!
By nature, fluency is the art of reading aloud with ease and expression. Therefore, one of the best reading fluency activities is to have a child read aloud to you. They’ll love the special “read with me” time, too!
Have them practice reading from a book of their choosing (or maybe a chapter book that you’re working on together).
When you’re listening in, you can help your son or daughter with their phrasing and expressions. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat a choppy-sounding sentence or two. But for the most part, focus on being a rapt audience member.
For beginning readers, I highly recommend this 50 book set by Usborne called My First Reading Library. The books are leveled beginning with Book 1, but the most interesting part is that the starter books are broken into a part for the child to read and a part for the adult to read. As you progress through the set, the child’s part gets larger until finally, they are expected to read the full book themselves. It’s a very neat way for the child and parent to read together!
Reading together is wonderful opportunity to connect with your child, as well! Make sure your full focus is turned toward your student, so they know how much importance you place on reading.
If another person isn’t available to help with reading fluency practice, you can always use whisper phones!
These small gadgets are simple in-design, but a wonderful assistant to the young reader.
Your child will simply whisper their reading into the “phone,” and they’ll be able to hear their own voice as they read.
This helps a child to monitor their own fluency rate and to immediately hear the results of their reading.
Whisper phones are a great resource for kids who are able to independently read at a higher level – or who don’t need the constant assistance of Mom and Dad.
For beginning readers, listening to a story and following along in the text are fantastic reading fluency activities. Doing them at the same time is even better!
You can offer your child an audiobook alongside a tangible copy of the same story, so they can follow the words as the reader speaks. This is a great set by Pixar that includes some very popular characters!
Encourage your young reader to follow along with their finger or a small tool (like a pencil or bookmark), so they are tracking the exact words the narrator is saying. This will not only help with fluency, but also word recognition.
One of my very favorite ways to engage young readers is with a theatrical production!
Reader’s Theatre does not have to be a big endeavor, but rather it can be a small scripted event where students have a chance to act out scenes from a book. These kids can practice adding emotion and phrasing to a variety of “lines” given to their characters throughout the scene.
At home, reader’s theatre might be best suited to a family affair! Involve older siblings, Mom and Dad, or maybe the neighbors! The kids can read a book together and even create the script themselves.
If they’re really feeling excited by the prospect of a theatrical event, let the readers invite a small audience to their backyard production! They might even use simple costumes they dig up in the playroom.
The ideas are endless, but the potential to build fluency is astronomical! Let those kids learn how fluency phrasing connects with emotional problems and scenes played out on stage.
Make reading an important part of your household!
When everybody reads, then everybody will read.
Try to find time in your day to take a break and read. Maybe Dad will read a few books to the kids on a Saturday afternoon.
Maybe the whole family takes a trip to the library to pick out new books for the week!
No matter what you choose, be sure that reading is engrained in your family traditions. Make it part of your daily experience.
Moms, I’ve got a list of books ready for you.
Reading as a family is an incredible fluency activity, because we get better at the things we practice. If reading is something the whole family participates in day-after-day, then it’s a skill that will naturally improve with time.
Struggling readers can most certainly use the reading fluency activities listed above, but often they need some extra help to feel confident in their abilities.
Above all else, struggling readers need time. Start back at the basics with phonics and phonemic awareness. When your student feels confident with their letters, sounds, consonant blends, and C-V-C words, you can start to nudge your way to fluency.
But remember, fluency is the art of reading with ease and expression. If a child cannot yet decode the words on a page, they are not ready to work on fluency. Go one step at a time.
If you’re ready, here are some fluency strategies for struggling readers:
Sometimes, readers just need a safe and comfortable space to relax while they’re reading!
Make a special corner in your home the book nook. You can decorate this area however you wish, but comfort is key. (I highly recommend some seasonal blankets or pillows and maybe some fairy lights for added twinkle.)
Here, your child should have all of their reading tools. You can include their favorite books, their whisper phone, their countdown timer, or any other supplies necessary for their success. A favorite lovey (that won’t be distracting) would also be a welcome addition!
Has your child ever read to their stuffed animals? They make a wonderful audience during “read with me” time!
That special space could be just the ticket for creating a warm atmosphere to promote healthy reading habits!
When readers are gaining familiarity with reading skills, they often start learning sight words. These are the words that they know by sight – without having to sound them out.
You can use flashcards to help a child work on their sight words, but this has a tendency to feel like work for little ones. So, it can be a better idea to try games!
Sight Word Bingo is a really fun option that can be played by the whole family!
One of the simplest reading fluency strategies for struggling readers is to introduce them to the thumbs-up rule.
This is a technique that they can use anywhere, because they only need their hand!
Have the child put all five fingers up in the air. Then, open up a book of their choosing to any page in the middle.
When they start reading the text, if they come across the word they don’t know or can’t quickly decode, they should put a finger down.
If they still have their thumb up by the end of the page, this text is an a-okay choice for them to work on!
Of course, teachers and parents are the best at helping readers pick out appropriate books to read. But this quick tip is great when kids are on their own!
When a child gets to pick out what they are reading, their motivation and inspiration to get involved grows astronomically!
Students who are struggling with reading fluency will feel more comfortable with a text of their choosing. Maybe they have a deep interest in the subject matter – or a knowledge of the book itself. Regardless, excitement for a book will take pressure off the need to perfectly decode unknown words.
The students might be more willing to push through a difficult text, if the subject is interesting to them.
No matter what, allowing the child to pick out their book gives them some say in the relationship. It’s important that kids see reading as a fun activity – and not just a homework lesson.
Speaking specifically about fluency, repeated reading is an excellent way for struggling readers to build their skill.
A parent or teacher will model a text and then the student simply repeats it back.
This can be done sentence-by-sentence, or maybe both parties can read the text together.
In a classroom, you may see a group of students reading through a poem at once – or repeating after the teacher.
This gives the students a chance to hear how the teacher phrases certain sentences or pauses form emphasis. Then, the students get the opportunity to try it for themselves.
Repeated reading is one of the best reading fluency activities for struggling readers, as they don’t have to focus so much on decoding! They can listen first and then repeat.
We get better at what we do over-and-over. If you want your children to increase their reading fluency skills, they need to spend more time reading. That might mean that you need to motivate your children to read in a variety of ways.
Show your kids that you love to read.
Make it part of your daily life.
Have a book basket at the center of your family room. Fill it with books that the kids love, but also ones that are just for mom and dad. Instead of turning the TV on after dinner, have a family book break where everyone takes out a book. Even the smallest of children can look through a book.
When you’re taking a break for yourself, why not spend some time reading? Let your child see you!
Instead of waiting to sneak in a chapter or two after the kids have gone to sleep, try to read in front of your little ones. They need to know that Mommy and Daddy see reading as a valuable part of their lives.
Pro-Tip: When we watch TV as a family, we like to put the captions on. It’s not as good as reading a book, but it does add a textual element to our TV time! We like to point out when the captions don’t match what was said on TV, etc.
Although technology isn’t the best way to engage in books, it IS an option!
There are plenty of apps available for kids to read through books or listen to read-alouds by some famous celebrities. Storyline Online is a wonderful website put together by the SAG-AFTRA foundation. It is a free resource for parents and teachers that includes dozens of celebrated actors reading children’s books.
If these resources motivate your child to read, by all means, take advantage of them!
Maybe if your child completes 5 days of their 20 minutes of reading, they can listen to their favorite picture book read by a celebrity! #doublewin, right!?
Want to motivate your child to read?
Make reading the reward!
When your child does something worth celebrating, use reading as a way to mark the occasion!
Perhaps with a great report card, your son or daughter could pick out a new book or two from the bookstore! Or – if they complete all of their chores on time, they could earn extra reading time with Mom or Dad.
You could even make the rewards at a much smaller scale, as well! The first child to brush their teeth gets to pick the bedtime story! If you finish your breakfast in time, you can squeeze in one chapter of your new book before we have to leave for school!
Use reading as an exciting prize for wonderful choices and good behavior – and you just might be surprised at the results!
Depending on your child’s weekly goals for reading, I recommend counting down for the WEEK (instead of the day).
This is the timer we’re using right now. (And if your child isn’t a fan of the ice queen, there are lots of other choices!) Bonus: It’s also a bookmark!
We count DOWN simply because some days are crazier than others. Some days, we have after-school activities and tons of homework – and other days, we have extra time to get caught up.
In our house, my 6-year-old has 100 reading minutes a week assigned for school. On Saturday, I set her bookmark timer to the 100 minutes countdown feature. Then, every time we sit down to read before Friday, we start the timer.
That way, we are quickly including all of the time across the board: minutes we read together and minutes she is reading independently.
The countdown aspect is a great motivator for her, because she knows exactly how many minutes she has left until she has met her goal for the week. (It helps that we can also do some quick math to figure out how many minutes we’ve already read, too!)
I love that it quickly calculates our total for the week, instead of worrying about it every day. This way, we can focus on the overall goal of our reading fluency activities instead of just the daily minutes.
You can help your child become an incredible reader with these reading fluency activities! Keep them motivated to read by practicing every day and incorporating a love of reading into your daily life. Reading is the foundation of everything else, right?
When a child has mastered the art of reading, they have the ability to learn anything.
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Katie Johansen is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with her M.A.Ed in Children’s Literature. She spent 6 years as an elementary school teacher in South Florida before transitioning to stay-at-home #momlife. Now, it’s all things PB&J – with an extra large cup of coffee on the side.